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DRC: Fears for thousands in Kibati camps

Briefing notes

DRC: Fears for thousands in Kibati camps

7 November 2008

UNHCR fully supports U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for an immediate halt to fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo amid growing concerns over tens of thousands of displaced civilians. We hope today's talks in Nairobi will lead to an immediate end to hostilities because the humanitarian needs in North Kivu are enormous.

We remain extremely concerned about the security of some 65,000 internally displaced Congolese civilians in the Kibati camps on the northern outskirts of Goma, the capital of troubled North Kivu province. We fear that the civilian population, already in a desperate humanitarian situation, could be caught in the crossfire should fighting resume in the area.

(NOTE: Subsequent to the briefing, UNHCR received reports from our Goma office that shooting erupted this morning in the vicinity of Kibati camps, interrupting the ongoing distribution of aid and causing panic among the camp population. The shooting stopped after about 30 minutes, UNHCR staff reported. However, they said internally displaced people from the camp continued to move toward Goma, to the south).

The opposing forces are now in very close proximity to the camps. We are again appealing to all sides in the conflict to respect the civilian character of the camps, to respect humanitarian principles and to ensure the safety of civilians and those trying to help them. There is also a risk of militarisation in the camps.

UNHCR and other agencies are rushing to get life-saving assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) as quickly as possible in an extremely volatile environment characterized by widespread human rights abuses and general lawlessness. We and other aid agencies are distributing humanitarian assistance in Kibati, including food, plastic sheeting for shelter construction, blankets, mats, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and jerry cans. Deliveries are being made to six UNHCR-managed camps around Goma that currently shelter some 135,000 displaced people.

We are also looking into the possibility of opening another camp west of Goma in case the situation at the two Kibati camps becomes untenable.