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Democratic Republic of the Congo: humanitarian situation worsening in South Kivu

04-04-2012 News Release 12/71

Geneva/Kinshasa (ICRC) – As fighting intensifies in South Kivu, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is worried about the civilian population.

In recent months, a sharp increase in attacks on civilians has caused massive displacement.

"We are very concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in South Kivu, especially in the northern part of the province, in Shabunda, Walungu and Kalehe territories," said Laetitia Courtois, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Bukavu. "What is most worrisome is that most of the victims of the attacks are civilians. All civilians, including those who have a family member who has joined the fighting, must be spared." Under international humanitarian law, civilians and their property must be spared and protected. The wounded and the sick must be cared for, and medical facilities and personnel must be respected and protected.

So far this year, the ICRC has evacuated 53 civilian field casualties, including 18 children, from areas in which fighting was taking place and arranged for them to be treated in hospitals in Bukavu. "Among those we evacuated were two small children who had been stabbed," said Ms Courtois. "They had witnessed the violent death of their mother and had been abandoned next to her body."

The unstable security environment is also hindering access to health care. "For the wounded, the ability to obtain care quickly often makes the difference between life and death," said Ms Courtois. Because it is not unusual for medical facilities to lack the medicines and other resources needed to deal with emergencies, the ICRC is providing these supplies for facilities in the areas affected by the fighting.

Since the beginning of the year, with support from volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC has attended to the needs of 44 children separated from their families, including children wounded in the fighting. Some have already been reunited with members of their families.

The ICRC is also maintaining its assistance for displaced people. For example, in Lwizi, Kabare territory, it is currently distributing food to over 3,200 people.

For further information, please contact:
Yves Heller, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: + 243 81 700 85 36
Marie-Servane Desjonquères, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 60 or +41 79 536 92 58