* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Goma, DRC (August 29, 2013): In light of the recent escalation of violence between the UN-supported Congolese army and armed groups in and around Goma, CARE International expresses its deep concern about the protection of civilians and displaced people, particularly women and girls, in Goma and the camps around the provincial capital.
The recent spike in violence is the most severe the region has seen since the fall of Goma to armed groups at the end of 2012, from which residents are still recovering. The front line is close now to the town centre, with many fearing a repeat of last November’s mass displacement, which has seen up to half a million people uprooted.
During the fall of Goma last year, the camps surrounding the provincial capital were pillaged and attacked, and women and girls reported being raped.
“CARE is concerned about both the civilians in Goma and the internally displaced people in the camps surrounding the town. We are especially concerned about women and girls as we know that they are the most vulnerable when conflict erupts. The people of North Kivu have already been traumatised by decades of conflict. We urge all parties to protect the civilians and the camps, and ensure there is a space for civilians to flee, if needed, as camp areas are being blocked by the fighting. The UN’s peacekeeping mission MONUSCO and the Congolese government need to ensure that the sites in and around Goma obtain effective protection and safety," said Yawo Douvon, CARE Country Director in DRC.
Following the escalation of violence in late 2012, CARE has been working in three camps on the outskirts of Goma, which host more than 40,000 internally displaced people, providing psychosocial and socio-economic support to survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence.
CARE has also been responding to the needs of internally displaced people in Masisi, an area of North Kivu, which has been especially affected at the end of last year, and where people have been forced to set up spontaneous sites on the outskirts of towns, separate from already crowded camps. CARE was the first organisation to come to the aid of people taking refuge in the spontaneous sites in Masisi, and has been providing much needed food and shelter items, seeds and tools, cash and food vouchers to both internally displaced people and hosting communities here.
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 84 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. CARE and its local partners implement long-term development programs and humanitarian assistance interventions in the Great Lakes countries (DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi), including programs to prevent sexual and gender-based violence and provide support to survivors.
To learn more, visit www.care-international.org.
Adel Sarkozi (Geneva), firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 793580713
Brian Feagans (Atlanta), email@example.com, +4049799453