Rebel raids displace more than 100,000 civilians in eastern Congo

News Stories, 21 April 2009

© UNHCR/S.Schulman
On the Run: Displaced Congolese ponder their future in North Kivu.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, April 21 (UNHCR) More than 100,000 Congolese civilians have been displaced in the volatile province of North Kivu over the past seven weeks as a result of raids by rebels who recently fought the armies of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

A series of concerted attacks carried out by the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) against civilians in the villages of Luofu, Kirumba, Kanyabonga and Kayna near Lubero, 170 kilometres north of the provincial capital of Goma, have left a trail of death and destruction and caused recurrent displacement.

According to the local authorities, the FDLR raided Luofu on Friday, killing two adults and five children and burning 255 homes. The panic-stricken residents spent the night in the bush while some fled to the nearby town of Kirumba. However, the FDLR has reportedly encircled the town since Sunday, threatening to overrun it.

Many of the displaced are hiding in the forest and are without assistance. At the same time, humanitarian agencies are unable to distribute essential aid because of the unpredictable nature of the attacks and the displacement. Another factor that adds to the prevailing insecurity is the FDLR tactic of attacking commercial vehicles on the main road linking Lubero to Goma in the south, to Beni in the north and to the Ugandan border to the east.

Displaced civilians who spoke to UNHCR were worried about the situation "We do not know what to do now. We run every day, we sleep in the forest, we fear attacks," said a shopkeeper.

The FDLR stepped up reprisal attacks against civilians in North Kivu after the armed forces of the DRC and Rwanda completed a joint military offensive against the rebel group some seven weeks ago. The FDLR is composed mainly of Rwandan Hutus who arrived in the DRC in the wake of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

With the latest surge in violence, UNHCR estimates there are now more than 1.4 million displaced people across the eastern DRC. Out of this total, almost a million have been driven from their homes in North Kivu alone by relentless fighting, general lawlessness, looting, destruction of homes and camps, killings and rapes.

Many of these people have been displaced more than once and families are often separated. The lawlessness and insecurity continues to affect aid operations, which are also hampered by the sheer size and scope of the displacement crisis in the eastern DRC.

By David Nthengwe in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

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