Democratic Republic of the Congo: swift action in Goma helps wounded and wider population

23-11-2012 Operational Update

Following the recent clashes that shook the city of Goma and the surrounding area in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), businesses and public transport have gradually been getting back to normal in the last two days. The lull has given the ICRC, working closely with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic, an opportunity to gauge the scale of people's needs and to provide emergency aid.

"Many people have been wounded, while the thousands forced to flee their homes to Goma have been without help for several days," said Frédéric Boyer, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in the city. Although the situation has settled down somewhat in Goma itself, the ICRC is concerned about people living in other violence-stricken areas, particularly to the west (in Sake and Minova) and in Kisangani, Bunia and Bukavu, where violence broke out on the fringes of the marches and demonstrations.

"The front line is shifting and new communities are now directly affected by the conflict in North and South Kivu," said Mr Boyer. "Others are living in fear of being caught up in the fighting at any moment."

The ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict that they have a duty to spare and protect the civilian population at all times. "Civilians and wounded combatants are dying from their injuries," said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in the DRC. "Every sick or wounded person is entitled to medical care. They must be spared and protected, as must health-care facilities and personnel. And the red cross emblem must be respected," he stressed.

Back in the operating room

Based on an initial assessment, around 80 war-wounded patients were identified on Wednesday and Thursday in two hospitals in Goma. Half of those patients had been wounded in the recent fighting, placing a heavy burden on the hospitals, which are also treating people wounded prior to the most recent outbreak of violence last week. The ICRC surgical team operated on four war-wounded patients yesterday. The team has resumed operating around the clock in N'Dosho hospital in Goma, where they work closely with the local staff. Since Wednesday, the ICRC has delivered medicines and other medical supplies to the hospital, as well as 28,000 litres of drinking water.

Katindo military hospital in Goma has also received medicines and other medical supplies and fuel to restart the generators that power the X-ray and sterilization equipment. ICRC staff also visited patients in the hospital and assessed the facility's current treatment capacity. Two other hospitals will be assessed today.

The ICRC has decided to bolster its medical team on the ground in order to step up its support to the hospitals. The ICRC's chief surgeon, who is based in Geneva, has just arrived in Goma.

In Bukavu, South Kivu, the ICRC is maintaining its support to health-care facilities in the region by taking to hospital people wounded in the recent clashes.

Water and fuel supplies

In light of the influx of displaced people arriving in Goma, the ICRC team has delivered 85,000 litres of water to temporary shelters, including the Don Bosco transit camp where unaccompanied children and 7,000 displaced people have sought refuge.

Fuel was also supplied for the generators at pumping stations in Goma. Two of the three pumping stations are now back up and running, which has restored the water supply to most of the city.

Joint work with the National Red Cross Society

The ICRC is working closely with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the last two days, thanks to the joint work of National Society volunteers and ICRC staff, 60 unaccompanied children have been registered. Efforts to trace their families are now under way.

A National Society team, supported by the ICRC, collected and recorded the remains of 60 people who died in Goma.
The ICRC has been present in the DRC since 1978 and in the provinces of North and South Kivu since 1994. It strives to foster compliance with international humanitarian law as regards the treatment of civilians and detainees, and helps people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.

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