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Recent clashes in North Kivu leave at least 40,000 internally displaced

News Stories, 29 May 2012

© UNHCR/S.Modola
Congolese civilians carry their belongings as they escape the recent fighting in Rutshuru.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, May 29 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday that the recent fighting in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has left more than 40,000 people internally displaced.

UNHCR staff in North Kivu province say most of the internal displacement is taking place in Rutshuru territory, north of the provincial capital, Goma. Between May 10 and May 20, one of UNHCR's local NGO partners registered more than 40,000 internally displaced people in Jomba and Bwesa sectors.

These are the latest figures available, but our field staff say there was fighting in southern Rutshuru's Runyonyi area on Saturday between government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda. The fighting appears to have stopped since Sunday.

UNHCR and other major aid organizations, including the World Food Programme, World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross, plan to soon start distributing food, medicine and other aid to the displaced, most of whom are living in school buildings and churches. Others are staying with host families. Conditions are tough.

"Some of the displaced report cases of extortion, forced labour, forced recruitment of minors and beatings by armed men," UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said.

In neighbouring Rwanda, people continue to cross the border from North Kivu at the Goma-Gisenyi checkpoint, but in much smaller numbers compared to the start of the latest crisis at the end of April. Our Rwanda office remains on high alert amid the stop-start fighting across the border.

An average of 150-200 are crossing daily and, as of Monday night, a total of 9,671 registered Congolese were at the Nkamira transit centre, more than 20 kilometres from the border. About 510 have voluntarily repatriated, including students who decided to return to sit their year-end examinations.

We continue to provide assistance at the crowded centre in Rwanda as plans advance to construct a new refugee camp in the south of the country. Shelter and health remain our key concerns. We run a clinic at Nkamira through an implementing partner, but face a shortage of essential drugs.

The situation at the DRC-Uganda border has also calmed down, with UNHCR field staff saying fighting has moved away from the border area in south-west Uganda's Kisoro district and deeper into Rutshuru. Over the past week, UNHCR and the Ugandan police have been moving people from the Bunagana border crossing to the Nyakabande transit centre, 20 kilometres inside Uganda, where they are registered.

Since May 11, when thousands crossed the border to escape nearby fighting in North Kivu province, some 11,261 people have been registered at Nyakabande. As of Sunday, almost all of those that were camping in spontaneous camps in Bunagana have moved to the transit centre (which currently hosts 7,786 displaced people).

However, many of them are still going back and forth across the border to check on their villages. In one typical example, police at the border reported that almost everyone in Rutshuru's Bugeyo village had crossed into Bunagana, Uganda, on Sunday night, fearing an imminent attack. No fighting took place and they all returned back to the DRC on Monday morning.

UNHCR also continues to move people from Nyakabande to a newly opened refugee settlement at Rwamwanja, 370 kilometres to the north, which currently hosts 7,552 people. Meanwhile, UNHCR's office in Uganda is preparing for an emergency response for 30,000 people.

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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.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Waves of fighting in eastern Democratic of the Republic since late April have displaced tens of thousands of people. Many have become internally displaced within the province, while others have fled to south-west Uganda's Kisoro district or to Rwanda via the Goma-Gisenyi crossing.

The stop-start clashes between government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda began in the province's Masisi and Walikale territories, but subsequently shifted to Rutshuru territory, which borders Uganda.

Between May 10-20, one of UNHCR's local NGO partners registered more than 40,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Jomba and Bwesa sectors.

The IDPs are living in difficult conditions, staying in school buildings and churches or with host families. They lack food and shelter and have limited access to health facilities. Some of the displaced have reported cases of extortion, forced labour, beatings and recruitment of minors to fight.

UNHCR and other major aid organizations plan to distribute food, medicine and other aid. More than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in North and South Kivu since the start of the year, according to UN figures.

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Internally Displaced in Chad

In scenes of devastation similar to the carnage across the border in Darfur, some 20 villages in eastern Chad have been attacked, looted, burned and emptied by roving armed groups since 4 November. Hundreds of people have been killed, many more wounded and at least 15,000 displaced from their homes.

Some 7,000 people have gathered near Goz Beida town, seeking shelter under trees or wherever they can find it. As soon as security permits, UNHCR will distribute relief items. The UN refugee agency has already provided newly arrived IDPs at Habila camp with plastic sheeting, mats, blankets and medicine. The agency is scouting for a temporary site for the new arrivals and in the meantime will increase the number of water points in Habila camp.

The deteriorating security situation in the region and the effect it might have on UNHCR's operation to help the refugees and displaced people, is of extreme concern. There are 90,000 displaced people in Chad, as well as 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad.

Posted on 30 November 2006

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