New Zealand international aid organisation Christian World Service is taking donations for the tens of thousands of Congolese driven out of their homes by fighting in the eastern DRC. It is also calling for diplomatic pressure to end the conflict and immediate steps to improve the United Nations’ ability to protect civilians.
The UN’s World Food Programme says that since 2007, between 1.4 million and 2m people have been displaced in North Kivu province. Of those, 250,000 have been displaced since the fighting between rebel group National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and government forces intensified in August, with thousands fleeing to neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
On October 26, CNDP took control of a military base near the North Kivu capital, Goma, and moved towards the city, leaving 50,000 people blocked behind rebel lines.
Emergency work was paralyzed after aid workers had to withdraw as the danger increased but aid is now trickling in.
Action by Church Together, the alliance of aid organisations of which Christian World Service is a member, is beginning to get food and other relief materials to displaced people. Among the distributions already made are 14-day food rations and non-food items to 150 families in a camp for internally displaced people, stocks of medicines to a health centre, and a feeding centre set up for children.
Conditions for the people driven from their homes are miserable. Forced to spend nights on bare ground and under the open sky, heavy rains have increased the risk of disease. Vulnerable families are at even greater risk as many local health centres have been looted.
A fragile cease-fire is now in place but looting, killing and raping of civilians in Goma is common as uncontrolled elements of armed groups flee the battlefront. However CNDP leader, General Laurent Nkunda, says he will guarantee “humanitarian corridors” through rebel lines.