Democratic Republic of the Congo: Humanitarian crisis spills over into South Kivu

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The ICRC has begun a distribution of essential items – clothing, blankets, mats, soap and kitchen sets – to over 500 displaced families who have taken refuge in South Kivu after fleeing the fighting in the neighbouring province of North Kivu.

The distribution is being carried out together with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the towns of Chebumba and Kitembo, some 50 km north of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu. It will be supplemented by food parcels delivered by the World Food Programme. The ICRC and the national Red Cross Society carried out two similar operations for 2,300 displaced families in the same area in September and November 2007.

"The situation is critical," said Patrick Walder, head of the ICRC's sub-delegation in South Kivu. "The newcomers are even more vulnerable than the previous wave of displaced people as they had to leave their homes in a great hurry with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Many of them have also been the victims of abuse by weapon-bearers."

The beneficiaries of the distribution are among thousands of civilians who have fled the armed clashes in North Kivu and the insecurity prevailing in the high plateaus of Kalehe. They are sheltering in the Minova region of northern South Kivu. Overwhelmed by this new influx of displaced people, the local population has been unable to take everyone in. Many of the newcomers, including young children, pregnant women and sick people, are now living in very difficult conditions without so much as a roof over their heads.

As part of its ongoing effort to support medical facilities that provide care for the displaced population, the ICRC has also supplied the Minova hospital with kits for the treatment of war-wounded and basic medicines, in particular those required to treat rape victims.

Numerous cases of sexual violence have been reported among the displaced population as well as looting and attacks of all kinds by armed men. Despite the substantial human and material resources deployed by the ICRC and other humanitarian agencies in response to the humanitarian crisis in this part of South Kivu, there are still many needs to be met.

The ICRC reminds all the parties to the conflict of their obligation under international humanitarian law to spare the lives and physical integrity of all civilians, wounded persons and persons captured in connection with the conflict, that is all those who are not or are no longer taking part in the fighting.

Source: International Committee of the Red Cross