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Democratic Republic of the Congo: physical insecurity an added woe for destitute and traumatized population

30-04-2010 Operational Update

The humanitarian situation in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains a major concern. The ICRC continues to help people suffering from the precarious security situation, providing them with food rations, drinking water and medical care. The following is a review of the ICRC's activities in these regions so far in 2010.

 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi    
 
Kibirizi, North Kivu. People collect water from one of the 44 water points the ICRC has repaired. 
     


 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi    
 
Kibirizi, North Kivu. The ICRC has repaired the water system, which serves over 31,000 people. 
     


 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi    
 
Kibumba, Mwanga territory, South Kivu. Children wash clothes in a river. 
     


 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi    
 
Kibumba, Mwanga territory, South Kivu. An ICRC employee explains to women who use river water for household purposes how to avoid water-borne diseases. 
     


 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi    
 
Bukavu, South Kivu. A technician works on an artificial leg in the Heri Kwetu centre, which provides physical rehabilitation and care for the victims of war. 
      

The security situation in North Kivu (eastern DRC) remains extremely fragile. People are still subject to rape, robbery, cattle theft, extortion and arson, as well as forced labour for armed groups. Several tens of thousands of people are believed to have been displaced during the early months of 2010, often in places where few or no humanitarian organizations are operating.

In South Kivu (east) ongoing military operations against several armed groups continue to uproot numerous groups of people. The government estimates the number of internally displaced at more than 500,000, over 30,000 of which have taken place since the start of the year. Access to this area is extremely difficult owing to logistical conditions and the lack of safety; in early April an ICRC team was held for a week by an armed group in South Kivu.

People in the Haut Uélé district of Oriental province (northeast) continue to live in a climate of fear that, according to the United Nations, has led to the displacement of 180,000 people since 2008. Acts of extreme violence – murder, rape, kidnapping and arson – undermine the security of people who are already traumatized and destitute. These areas generally remain inaccessible to humanitarian groups.

Some towns in Equateur province (northwest) still bear traces of the clashes that took place at the end of 2009. Many people who fled the violence have not yet returned, while some towns were hit hard by the clashes and their infrastructures were completely destroyed. This is the case of Dongo, for example, which needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

    

    

 Providing food, seeds and other essential items  

    

The lack of security has an impact on the living conditions of both the displaced people and local residents. Many people limit their movements to protect themselves against depredations, but the affect this can have on essential activities such as farming could exacerbate their economic and nutritional plight.

In the first quarter of 2010 the ICRC responded to this state of affairs by:

  • distributing food rations, seeds and household items to more than 66,000 people in North and South Kivu (refugees, local host families and recent returnees);

  • providing gardening kits and cassava cuttings to 1,000 residents and ten associations in North Kivu (along the Kamandi, Kamandi-Luofu and Busekera corridors);

  • distributing fish-farming implements to 175 families in Masisi (Busoro, Kandja, Kikamata and Ngesha) in order to help restore fisheries there, and continuing its support for fish-farming associations in Mwenga, South Kivu;

  • distributing seeds to 27,000 displaced people and residents in Bokonzi, Makengo and Mutuba, in Equateur province;

  • distributing more than 218,000 daily food rations to approximately 2,400 people held in six detention centres across the country (Bas-Congo, Ituri, Kasai-Oriental and Oriental province).

    

 Restoring family links  

    

The human displacement caused by the fighting and violence in the DRC has separated many families, sometimes across the country's borders. Children are especially vulnerable.

From January to March 2010 the ICRC and the DRC Red Cross:

  • helped convey more than 8,000 messages between separated family members;

  • reunited 170 children with their families – 59 of these children were " gotten out " of the army or one of the armed groups;

  • continued to seek the families of 646 other children, 137 of whom came from the army or an armed group.

    

 Providing medical support  

    

To improve the medical care provided to civil and military victims of the conflict and violence, the ICRC continues to provide support to 15 health centres in North and South Kivu, dispensaries in a number of detention centres and five orthopaedic centres. Six health centres and three military hospitals in North and South Kivu, along with Gemena hospital (Equateur province), have also been given emergency aid for handling displaced persons and/or the war wounded.

From January to March 2010 the health centres supported by the ICRC:

  • carried out more than 30,000 medical consultations and around 700 operations;

  • admitted more than 2,000 people and assisted in around 1,700 births;

  • performed 15,800 vaccinations;

  • provided care to 87 people wounded in the fighting.

Furthermore, with the ICRC's support:

  • 164 war wounded – both civilian and military – underwent physical rehabilitation;

  • 154 prosthetic devices were made and distributed (20 of them went to mine victims);

  • at Matanda hospital (in Butembo, North Kivu) the antenatal clinic was rebuilt and the water distribution system was fixed;

  • latrines and an incinerator were built at the Kitsombiro health centre (North Kivu).

 Helping victims of sexual violence and other trauma  

    

The ICRC continues to support 34 counselling centres in North and South Kivu provinces, where psycho-social assistants work with conflict victims. From January to March 2010 these counselling centres treated:

  • more than 740 rape victims and 91 victims of other forms of sexual violence;

  • around 540 other people, most of whom suffering from conflict-related trauma.

 Restoring and improving access to water  

    

Restricted access to water is one of the indirect consequences of the fighting and insecurity in the North/South Kivu region and one of the people's main worries.

  • In Kibirizi (Rutshuru territory, North Kivu), the ICRC has completed improvements to the system that supplies water to 31,500 people.

  • In Bitale (South Kivu), construction was completed on five water points used by 6,800 people.

  • The 12,300 residents of Fizi (South Kivu) are now supplied with water through eight wells and 64 springs buil t by the ICRC.

 Partnership with the DRC Red Cross  

  • In an initiative to raise awareness about cholera, 160 Red Cross volunteers were trained in Bukavu and Katana (South Kivu) in the fields of hygiene and sanitation.

  • In Iganda (South Kivu), 24 water chlorination points were set up in order to reduce the risk of contamination by cholera for the town's 5,000 residents, and around 50 community volunteers carried out a hygiene information campaign. No cases of cholera have been reported since February.

  • The ICRC provided financial and logistical support to the Red Cross teams responsible for overseeing the reservoirs set up in Mubambiro and Rusayo for the use of local residents. The aim was to address the danger of ash falling into the water following the January eruption of Nyamulagira volcano (far eastern part of the North/South Kivu region).