The most recent emergency was brought on by further violent fighting between government forces and non-state armed groups, which resulted in the forcible evacuation of 300,000 people from their homes in North Kivu Province just in February.
Since March of last year, more than 800,000 people have fled the conflict in eastern DR Congo, including to the provinces of South Kivu and Ituri.
Internally displaced, mainly in the country’s east, the DRC is home to Africa’s worst internal displacement problem.
UNHCR requests $232.6 million for 2023 to help refugees and internally displaced people in the DRC.
The DRC operation is just 8% funded as of right now.
The DRC is again suffering from brutal conflict. 300,000 people fled North Kivu Province in February due to an emergency. Government-Non-state armed group confrontations have caused widespread destruction and a significant displacement issue. This article discusses Congo’s heartbreaking condition, survivors’ experiences, humanitarian organisations’ obstacles, and the need to end the cycle of violence.
Why did 300,000 people flee their homes in North Kivu Province in February?
Conflicts between government forces and non-state armed groups in North Kivu Province led to the forced relocation of 300,000. Fear and instability were unleashed as the battle escalated, forcing many to seek refuge elsewhere. The shocking number of displaced people causes anxiety for their safety and future.
What are the consequences of the ongoing clashes in Congo?
In the wake of the ongoing conflict, there is destruction and displacement. Communities have been uprooted, homes devastated, and lives destroyed. The violence has a significant negative impact on particularly vulnerable groups, including women and children, who suffer the most from the humanitarian catastrophe. Trauma, weariness, and the looming prospect of additional violence characterise their experiences.
How are humanitarian organisations responding to the crisis?
Those affected by the violence are the focus of the persistent efforts of humanitarian organisations like the UNHCR on the ground. Despite the difficulties they encounter, these organisations are committed to providing survivors with peer support and psychological counselling to help them cope with the trauma they have experienced. However, there are major challenges to providing prompt and sufficient aid due to the limited resources available and the deteriorating camp circumstances.
What is the urgency of bringing an end to the violence in Congo?
The need to put an end to the violence in Congo is of utmost importance. With each passing day of the ongoing conflict, an increasing number of lives are being uprooted, and individuals are being compelled to abandon their homes. The perpetuation of violence creates a persistent atmosphere of apprehension and unpredictability, impeding advancements in both societal and economic realms. The imperative of prioritising peace and striving towards a sustainable resolution that protects the welfare and rights of the Congolese populace cannot be overstated.
A Horrific Humanitarian Crisis Unfolds
According to the UNHCR, the Kitchanga district in Masisi territory witnessed the displacement of about 50,000 people during the week of February 17. The situation worsened as another 20,000 people fled at the beginning of that week, reflecting the intensifying violence and the grave threat it poses to the civilian population.
Women and children, who have managed to escape the carnage, now find themselves in dire circumstances. They are forced to sleep in the open, seeking shelter in spontaneous or arranged locations. Exhausted and traumatised, they bear the heavy burden of conflict, paying a high price for the ongoing violence.
UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh highlighted the alarming human rights violations reported in the affected areas, particularly in the Rutshuru and Masisi territories. These include arbitrary executions, kidnappings, extortion, and rapes, further exacerbating the suffering of the vulnerable population.
Inadequate Resources and Crumbling Camps
Conditions for those seeking refuge in unplanned or planned camps are nothing short of appalling, with the UN agency for refugees issuing warnings about the crumbling state of these facilities under immense pressure. The sheer scale of displacement since March of the previous year is staggering, with over 800,000 people fleeing the conflict in eastern DR Congo, including to the provinces of South Kivu and Ituri.
The border between DR Congo and Rwanda has become a volatile region, hosting more than 130 active armed organisations. Among them is the notorious M23 militia, which has targeted both government forces and the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, in the past. Although an M23 truce was arranged recently, intended to commence on Tuesday, it has yet to come into effect, leaving the situation unresolved.
The continuous violence has resulted in the displacement of over 800,000 individuals since March of last year, with people seeking refuge in various regions, including South Kivu and Ituri provinces. The crisis persists, and the need for immediate action is more urgent than ever.
Addressing Trauma and Humanitarian Challenges
Wherever access is feasible, the UNHCR staff stands ready to provide critical psychosocial counseling and peer support to those traumatized by their harrowing experiences. However, humanitarians caution that despite “all efforts” to safeguard and assist those displaced near Goma, the provincial seat of North Kivu, accessing relief poses significant challenges. Continuous warfare renders key routes impassable, hindering the delivery of crucial aid to those in need.
The dire situation has forced more than 5,500 individuals to seek refuge in neighbouring Rwanda since January, with an additional 5,300 crossing into Uganda. Insecurity and violence continue to wreak havoc in border districts, compelling people to undertake dangerous journeys in search of safety.
A Plea to End the Violence
The UNHCR has issued a resolute statement, urging all parties involved in the conflict in eastern DRC to cease the violence that is inflicting immeasurable suffering on the civilian population. With approximately 5.8 million people internally displaced, predominantly in the country’s east, the DRC harbours Africa’s most severe internal displacement crisis. Moreover, it extends its hospitality to nearly a million refugees from neighbouring nations, further straining its limited resources.
Regrettably, the UNHCR’s mission in the DRC is among its globally underfunded operations. To adequately address the needs of refugees and internally displaced people in the country, the UNHCR has requested $232.6 million for 2023. However, as of now, the DRC operation is merely 8% funded, emphasising the urgent requirement for increased support and resources.
The violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has resulted in a staggering humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and exposed to unimaginable horrors. Survivors, particularly women and children, bear the heavy toll of the conflict, enduring dire conditions and trauma. The inadequate resources and crumbling camps further compound the challenges faced by humanitarian organisations in providing assistance. Urgent action is needed to end the violence and alleviate the suffering of the affected population. Increased funding and support are essential to address the ongoing crisis and protect the rights and well-being of the vulnerable individuals caught in its grip.