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DRC: Many thousands still fleeing fighting in North Kivu province

Briefing notes

DRC: Many thousands still fleeing fighting in North Kivu province

28 September 2007

A fresh round of fighting this week in Masisi district in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has resulted in the displacement of more people with new waves of uprooted people expected in the coming days. Fresh arrivals are reported daily in the camp sites hosting internally displaced people in the Mugunga area, and there are also reports of people also fleeing into neighbouring South Kivu province.

There are now some 65,000 internally displaced people sheltering in the larger Mugunga area close to Goma, with 45,000 in displacement sites and camps.

UNHCR field teams have identified some 1,750 new arrivals since Tuesday in camp sites in Mugunga with those displaced saying they fled as fighting drew closer to their villages. Many walked for two days to reach the Mugunga area, some 20 kilometres west of Goma. They report there are more displaced on the road fleeing towards Mugunga and Goma.

In Masisi district, where fighting between government army and renegade troops flared early in the week, our field team discovered another large group of displaced people in the village of Nzulo, some seven kilometres east of Sake. The group had found shelter with the host families, in local churches and in the primary school. According to the village chief, over 5,000 displaced people have been in Nzulo since early September. Over the next few days, UNHCR as part of an inter-agency team, will verify the numbers displaced and the help they need.

A recent inter-agency mission to the Kitchanga, Mweso and Kalemba villages in Masisi district, in which UNHCR took part, found signs that as many as 16,000 newly displaced people, are sheltering along the road connecting these villages. The humanitarian response is being planned. In the village of Kahe, in the same area, some 1,000 people have crowded into a primary school. Many people said they had fled earlier fighting and then had been displaced again by the most recent fighting. Some people are reportedly hiding in the forests.

Before this new wave of displacement, the UNHCR-run Bulengo IDP site had already reached maximum capacity and is now sheltering over 10,000 displaced people. The site is now very stretched trying to cope with new arrivals. Support for IDPs with host families is being organised by humanitarian agencies working in North Kivu.

Next week, UNHCR registration experts on mission in Goma will start a verification exercise of the site and camp population in Mugunga area together with the NGOs NRC and Solidarité.

We are extremely concerned that an intensification of fighting in North Kivu will lead to tens of thousands of newly displaced flooding already over-crowded displacement sites. This would be in addition to the over 300,000 Congolese displaced in North Kivu since December last year.