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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC urges respect for civilian population in the Kivus

30-09-2008 News Release 08/181

Kinshasa / Geneva (ICRC) – More than 100,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes since armed clashes resumed between Congolese government troops and the armed opposition in North and South Kivu provinces on 28 August last.

  ©ICRC/Carl de Keyzer/cd-e-00708    
  Minova city, South Kivu. Victims of sexual violence at a 'maison d'écoute'/shelter.    

Many violations of international humanitarian law, including looting and rape, have been committed by weapon bearers against civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminds all parties to the conflict that it is absolutely essential to respect the life and dignity of persons not, or no longer, directly taking part in hostilities.

" We have been witnessing a major deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Kivus since the resumption of hostilities, " said Max Hadorn, head of the ICRC delegation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. " Thousands of people have been displaced, often several times, and they urgently require aid. It is vital that humanitarian organizations have access to the areas most affected. "

The vast majority of people afflicted by violence are in places that are difficult for humanitarian workers to reach because of poor security. The ICRC, working with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nevertheless succeeded in assessing the most pressing needs of part of the displaced population in North and South Kivu. The organization found that many families had to flee their homes without being able to take anything at all with them, and that they were in urgent need of medical care and safe drinking water. The ICRC therefore provided 17 health-care facilities with medicines and medical supplies for treating the wounded. A surgeon and a nurse were also made available to reinforce surgical and other hospital services in North Kivu. In addition, drinking water for 10,000 people was delivered to the province. Over the coming days, priority will be given to obtaining access to the areas hardest hit while ma intaining the food distributions for 40,000 people already under way.

The ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict that they are obliged by international humanitarian law to preserve the lives and health of the civilian population and of people wounded or captured during the fighting. The parties must authorize and facilitate the safe and rapid passage of relief consignments being sent to the civilian population. The red cross emblem, staff carrying out relief operations and any material or equipment being used for those operations must be respected and protected in all circumstances.

  Photo gallery on Democratic Republic of the Congo available on demand   For further information, please contact:
  Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: +243 81 700 85 36
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17