DR Congo: Aid agencies responding to needs as fighting continues

The situation in some parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains fragile as aid agencies respond to the needs of the populations recently displaced by fighting between government troops and multiple non-state armed groups and M23 rebels.

World Vision has resumed operations in some the areas where it had suspended operations three weeks ago but was once again forced to withdraw staff from Rutshuru Territory after fighting advanced.

Aid agencies estimate that 200,000 people have been displaced in the last four weeks in South and North Kivu. Some of them have crossed the borders into Rwanda and Uganda.

World Vision is responding to the needs of the newly displaced by providing food as well as medical care through partner agencies. A total of 11,000 of the newly displaced received food this week in Rambire and Menova areas in South Kivu. Those who ran to this area came from as far as 200km away. The food is provided by the World Food Programme and World Vision.

“We are very concerned about the situation of the population in areas where the fighting is going on. We are worried about their safety and lack of basic needs like food,” said Jonas Habimana, World Vision’s Programme Coordinator based in Ruschuru town in North Kivu Province.

The displaced in Rutshuru Territory have pitched tents in schools and churches while many others have been taken in by relatives and friends. 

Already signs of conflict are being seen as hungry children of the displaced families sneak into farms and help themselves with fruits. When caught, their parents are forced to pay while all they have is the clothes on their backs. Normal school learning is being disrupted as the displaced have taken refuge in some classrooms.

Children are getting sick as a result of sleeping in the open or dusty classrooms and environmental sanitation remains a concern. Malaria infection is another big worry for the parents since Rutshuru is a malaria endemic area. Cholera is also a concern in crowded conditions, with more than 40,000 cases of cholera have been recorded in the DRC in the last 18 months.

“It is a crisis. They are suffering. Food is priority here. There is also need for shelter and cooking sets,” said Joseph Mukis, World Vision Humanitarian Emergency Director.