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DRC: Concern grows for civilians in Kibati

Briefing notes

DRC: Concern grows for civilians in Kibati

21 November 2008

We are increasingly concerned about the safety of tens of thousands of displaced Congolese civilians in the Kibati camps in the outskirts of Goma, the capital of the troubled province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In an alarming incident in the early hours of this morning (Friday), a 20-year old woman was shot and killed at the Kibati camp and a number of families were forced to leave their huts, which were then looted by armed men. Our team in Kibati is assessing the situation and the needs of the victims.

Over the past weeks we have repeatedly expressed our concern for the safety of some 67,000 internally displaced Congolese civilians sheltered in the Kibati camps. We fear that the civilian population, already in a dramatic and desperate humanitarian situation, could be caught in the crossfire, should fighting resume in the area.

The latest incident adds to the pressure on UNHCR and the provincial authorities to move almost half of the 67,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) currently staying in two camps in Kibati to the new Mugunga III camp, located to the west of Goma.

We, together with our partners, have been taking advantage of relative calm in North Kivu this week to step up work on a new camp for up to 30,000 displaced people.

This lull has enabled UNHCR and partners to mark out the 65-hectare Mugunga III site, clear the ground and start building accommodation blocks and most urgent infrastructure, including reception and shelter facilities, access roads and latrines. A water distribution system is being built, with six standpipes now in operation to supply up to 10,000 people.

The work conditions are extremely difficult at the planned site as it lies on a hardened lava rock field and digging of sanitation pits and levelling of access roads is taking time.

We plan to start the relocation of internally displaced people from Kibati to Mugunga III as soon as the basic conditions are in place. UNHCR will help the provincial authorities move people on a voluntary basis from the two Kibati camps to Mugunga III. Most people will make the 15-kilometre journey by foot, but young children, the elderly and the infirm will be transported by truck. For those who will make the journey on foot, we are also working on the construction of several way stations between the two sites where people will be able to rest and refresh before moving on again towards Mugunga III.

Meanwhile, we are bringing in additional aid to North Kivu. Six UNHCR trucks with trailers - loaded with humanitarian assistance - arrived on Wednesday from UNHCR's regional emergency stockpile in Ngara, Tanzania. The convoy brought in 2,425 pieces of plastic sheeting, 1,204 kitchen sets, 18,444 high thermal blankets, 13,750 sleeping mats, 4, 200 collapsible 10 litre water jerry cans and 15,000 mosquito nets. The next shipment of humanitarian assistance will also include more than 13,000 blankets and over 600 rolls of plastic sheeting needed for shelter construction

Fighting in North Kivu intensified at the end of 2006. By January 2008, it had brought the total number of IDPs in the region to more than 800,000. Since the fighting resumed in August, some 250,000 civilians have fled, many of them already displaced. In addition, an estimated 12,000 Congolese refugees have crossed the border into Uganda.