Democratic Republic of the Congo: Civilians still suffering in North Kivu and Katanga

by International Committee of the Red Cross | International Committee of the Red Cross
Thursday, 30 January 2014 12:00 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Rubaya, Masisi, North Kivu, Democractic Republic of the Congo. Displaced persons camps. ©ICRC /R. Forin


Despite the end of fighting between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the armed group M23 in November 2013, other conflicts drag on in certain parts of the country, including Eastern, North Kivu, South Kivu and Katanga provinces.

In December, there were civilian casualties in Mwenda and clashes in Kamango, in the Beni area of northern North Kivu province. Entire families had to flee, while those who had been displaced earlier were unable to return to their homes. A military offensive was launched in mid-January in the Beni area where people are still enduring the presence of armed groups.

Clashes have been occurring since November between loyalist forces and armed groups in the north-central part of Katanga province, a remote area where humanitarian organizations still have only a small presence. Fighting in the Shamwana/Kishale area pitting Mai-Mai/Bakata Katanga militias against government armed forces has triggered new waves of displacement, especially in the direction of Shamwana and Mpiana. Not a few civilians have been forced to take refuge in the bush. "The resumption of the conflict has obliged people to flee in fear, and often to leave behind what few possessions they had," said Andrea Drury, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Katanga. "The security situation is very volatile for the moment."

Improving health care in North Kivu

"The lack of security in places where fighting has taken place has made it extremely difficult to reach the injured and to bring in aid," said Guislain Defurne, head of the ICRC office in Beni. In mid-December, the ICRC provided support for health-care facilities near the clashes that had to cope with the initial influx of casualties by delivering antiseptics, antibiotics, anaesthetics, syringes, cannulas and wound-dressing materials to the general referral hospital in Mutwanga and to the Djapanda health-care centre in Nobili. The Djapanda centre, which the ICRC has been supporting since July, was given medicines to provide primary care. War-wounded civilians were treated by an ICRC surgical team at the Ndosho hospital in Goma. The ICRC also provided medicines and medical supplies for the Katindo military hospital in Goma, where war-wounded military personnel were taken. The Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has undertaken to recover and bury mortal remains, was given body bags, gloves and disinfectant by the ICRC to facilitate their work.

At the beginning of this year, the ICRC supplied to the military structure within the general hospital in Beni enough bandages, plaster casts and metal splints used for positioning and immobilizing limbs to treat around 100 field casualties.

Since the beginning of December 2013, in other parts of North Kivu, the ICRC has also:

distributed emergency one-month food rations to around 400 people held in the Butembo territorial prison, and continued to provide medicines for the dispensaries of the Goma central prison and of the Beni and Butembo territorial prisons;improved access to water for 58,000 people living in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories and in the town of Walikale;built a counselling centre ("maison d'écoute") in Nyamilima, Rutshuru territory, where victims of sexual and other violence are taken in;carried on upgrading facilities, delivering medicines and providing training in six health-care centres and two general referral hospitals;organized information sessions in Beni to raise awareness of the basic rules of international humanitarian law among more than 230 officers of the armed forces. Special emphasis was placed on the obligation to spare civilians and those engaged in medical work;provided training in first aid for 15 officers of the armed forces in the Walikale area of North Kivu.Needy people in north-central Katanga difficult to reach

The deterioration in the security situation and the arrival of the rainy season have made it more difficult for the ICRC to carry out its activities in the north-central part of Katanga. It has not yet been possible to complete the distribution of essential supplies to 33,000 people that began in October. Entire communities are dispersed, exposed to the elements and vulnerable to disease. This is a matter of concern for the ICRC, which stands ready to deliver the planned assistance as soon as the security situation permits.

Since the beginning of December 2013, in Katanga, the ICRC has also:

carried on visiting people detained in four prisons, providing medicines for the prison dispensaries, and supplying chlorine and hygiene items for cholera-prevention measures;visited 15 children formerly associated with armed groups, whom the ICRC had reunited with their families in September 2013, to make sure that their return to their families and communities had gone smoothly;maintained its contacts with loyalist forces and armed groups to remind them of their obligation to spare civilians and to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians.

For further information, please contact:Annick Bouvier, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: +243 81 700 85 36Elodie Schindler, ICRC Goma, tel: +243 81 700 77 86Sylvie Pellet, ICRC Bukavu, tel: +243 81 711 55 60Andrea Drury, ICRC Katanga, tel: +243 82 565 35 34David-Pierre Marquet, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 02 or +41 79 536 92 48