Peace and Security

Despite severe constraints on access, UN and other humanitarian workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have begun helping thousands displaced by renewed fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group around the eastern region of North Kivu, close to the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

n an update for journalists in New York during the regular press briefing on Wednesday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said many of those forced to flee their homes in the Rutshuru area, have found temporary shelter in schools, hospitals, churches and other sites, although most are living with host families who have taken them in.

Food to 50,000 in need

“Despite severe access constraints, humanitarian workers have started helping displaced people in Nyiragongo territory, providing them with water and healthcare. Our partners were also able to distribute food to some 50,000 people”, he added.

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More than 180 unaccompanied children have been identified and assisted by child protection workers, while some 2,000 others are receiving psychological support, said Mr. Dujarric.

More supplies needed

“The needs still exceed present capacities, especially in the south of Kayna health zone in Lubero territory, which was already home to some 50,000 displaced people.”

The most urgent needs facing those caught up in the fighting include water, hygiene and sanitation; as well as a lack of essential household items, shelter, food, healthcare and basic protection.

The UN peacekeeping Mission in the country, MONUSCO, continues to protect civilians in line with its core mandate, and to work alongside the Congolese army to deter the M23 movement – an armed group of mainly ethnic Tutsi formed to oppose Hutu militia ten years ago which has gained ground in recent weeks – and other armed groups which hold sway across large swathes of the east.

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Maintaining ‘multiple positions’

The UN Spokesperson said that to maximize civilian protection, peacekeepers are “maintaining multiple positions, where possible, in the zone of hostilities.”

Following consultations with national partners, the Mission withdrew peacekeepers from its base in Rumangabo, in North Kivu, an area where the Congolese army is no longer present, he added.

MONUSCO tweeted that it had made the tactical withdrawal, in order to prepare for next steps with national partners, in the effort to contain the advance of M23, which occupied the town of Kiwanja on Saturday. Four peacekeepers were injured in fighting at the weekend, carrying our protection operations.

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Peacekeepers attacked

Mr. Dujarric also reported that a convoy of peacekeepers had been stoned by a hostile crowd, at an army checkpoint near a site for displaced people, around 8 kms north of regional capital, Goma.

“Two peacekeepers were injured and [at least] one mission vehicle was set on fire. Peacekeepers fired warning shots to ensure safe passage of the convoy.

“Our colleagues note that this type of violence and destruction of equipment limits the mission’s capacity to carry out its mandate to protect civilians and support the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities.”