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Eastern DRC: UNHCR calling for the protection of civilians amid renewed fighting

Press Releases, 22 May 2013

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is deeply concerned about renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo between government troops and fighters of the M23 rebel movement.

The UN refugee agency is particularly concerned for the safety of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in camps around Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu. Yesterday (Tuesday), shelling was reported close to the Mugunga 3 camp for IDPs, causing panic among the more than 13,000 inhabitants, mostly women and children. Six local people living near the camp were injured during the attacks.

Since the latest fighting erupted on Tuesday, the camp at Mugunga has been emptying, with the IDPs fleeing from Mugunga and heading towards Goma, some 15 kilometres to the east. Others are heading northwards to Sake, 10 km away from the camp. Local residents are also reported to be fleeing from the Mugunga area.

An estimated 350,000 displaced people are currently living in about 55 IDP sites across North Kivu, with half of the camps located in areas affected by conflict. Tens of thousands have fled since April 2012, when the intermittent fighting between the DR Congolese army and the M23 forces first began. The conflict also sent more than 60,000 Congolese into exile in Uganda and Rwanda.

Last November, the M23 captured and briefly held Goma, but the two sides opened peace talks the following month in Uganda. These appear to have broken down.

UNHCR is calling on all the parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of all civilians, including displaced people.

"The principle of distinguishing between military targets and the civilian population must be respected," said Germaine Bationo, UNHCR's acting regional representative in DRC.

According to UN estimates, there are more than 2.5 million forcibly displaced people in the DR Congo, including some 900,000 people in North Kivu.

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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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