DR Congo: Stepping up support for two million displaced
Humanitarian agencies in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are providing basic support as the number of displaced people across the country reaches 2 million for the first time in nearly three years.
Over the past nine months, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in DRC has grown steadily, mainly due to persisting insecurity in North and South Kivu Provinces. In February 2012, the Congolese army launched operations against armed groups that were traumatizing civilians in the east. In retaliation, these armed groups stepped up their violent attacks against civilians.
“The army’s aim of providing peace and security to civilians is creating a boomerang effect, so these same civilians are paying a heavy price. Humanitarian agencies are on the ground providing aid, and we will need to scale up this aid if the situation further deteriorates,” warned Barbara Shenstone, Head of OCHA in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
South Kivu has recorded the biggest increase in the number of displaced people—up 35 per cent from 635,000 IDPs at the end of last year to more than 856,000 at the end of March 2012. Its neighbour, North Kivu, has seen a smaller increase of 10 per cent to over 547,000 IDPs. This number may increase, as a recent stand-off between the national army and troops who have defected is spiraling out of control. This has already pushed large numbers of people onto the roads, including almost 7,000 who have crossed the border into Rwanda since 29 April.
With 1.4 million IDPs, the Kivus account for 70 per cent of the total displaced population in DRC. Some of those displaced fled their homes many years ago while others have been forced from their homes several times.
The Rapid Response to Population Movement (RRMP) programme is an aid mechanism run by OCHA and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that serves as a first line of response. In the past few months, the RRMP has stepped up its work in both Kivu Provinces. Thousands of displaced households have received help through the programme’s aid fairs—where people receive tokens in exchange for items such as food—and through more traditional aid distributions. In addition, the World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing high-energy biscuits to newly displaced households.
In March, the NGOs Norwegian Refugee Council and Solidarités International distributed aid directly or through fairs to some 35,000 displaced and returnee households and host families. These distributions were also carried out under the RRMP banner. In Walikale, North Kivu, some 7,500 IDPs benefited from a cash-transfer-for-food programme in March. In South Kivu, the International Rescue Committee and the Italian Foundation, Association of Volunteers and International Service assisted some 25,000 IDPs in Bitale and Nyamirera. WFP also intends to use cash tranfers as the primary mechanism for meeting the needs of newly displaced households in areas where market assessments show this is feasible.
In late March, WFP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF appealed for US$4 million to help some 16,000 IDPs in Mitwaba, Katanga.
Funding requirements for DRC in 2012 are $718m; by 14 May, only $223m had been received. Aid agencies estimate that if the situation continues to deteriorate, more money will be needed.
For Kojo Anyanful, the DRC WFP Country Director ad interim, his priority is clear: "To ensure the continued delivery of life-saving food assistance to 1.8 million victims of armed conflict and other vulnerable people through the end of 2012, WFP urgently requires $34 million,” he said. “This includes assistance to those who have been displaced by conflict for some time, as well as the newly displaced."