Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Humanitarian crisis in DR Congo continues as a tenuous peace sets in

UNICEF Image: DR Congo, Goma, Displaced
© UNICEF/HQ07-0794/ McKenzie
Adults and children at the Nyanzale camp for displaced people in North Kivu Province; UNICEF and its partners are providing vital aid for approximately 110,000 people who have been displaced by conflict in DR Congo.

By Sarah Crowe

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 21 September 2007 – Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and left destitute by the recent fighting in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

To date, UNICEF and partners have assisted approximately 110,000 people who were displaced during this humanitarian crisis. Families have received blankets, cooking utensils, treated bed nets, and plastic sheeting to use as basic shelter.  Thousands of children were immunized against measles and pregnant women were immunized against neo-natal tetanus. Meanwhile, latrines and water bladders have kept waterborne diseases to a minimum.

Aid agencies and Government authorities have not been able to keep up with the flood of humanity fleeing from conflict. The fragile security situation in the region has hampered humanitarian operations and it is believed that there could be as many as 300,000 people in need.

‘I took them in’

Many of the newly displaced walked for days to get to safe camps in Muganga outside Goma. The start of the rainy season has left many exposed to the elements, forced to shape bush and branches into makeshift homes.

Although she was pregnant, 16-year-old Pascaline and her family were forced to flee their home town of Sake. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, she and ten other members of her family headed on foot to Goma. As tropical rains poured down, Pascaline went into labour. With the help of her family, she arrived at a health clinic where she gave birth to a healthy baby girl she named Nadine.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF video
Aid agencies and and governments are unable to keep up with the flood of humanity fleeing conflict.

Yet only hours after giving birth, Pascaline and her family had to seek shelter. Josephine Ndalemwa, 33, took pity on the family and opened her home to them.

“I saw them searching for shelter at night in the rain. The young mother and her tiny baby were completely soaked through. The baby’s umbilical cord had not yet been cut,” said Ms. Ndalemwa. “I felt really sorry for them and took them in.”

Ms. Ndalemwa is one of many people in North Kivu who have opened their hearts and their homes to strangers. She now has 17 people living with her and her family.

A crisis 'on the edge'

Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and Congolese government forces have been able to stabilize some areas, but ongoing insecurity remains a threat – especially to boys.

At a hospital in Goma, a 15-year-old boy lay in agony, having been brutally shot in the leg as he was leaving home. If he had not been brought there by a worker with the non-governmental organization Heal Africa, he would have lost his leg. There were no X rays, no way to operate or mend his bone in his home town of Kichanga.

Villages have emptied from the fighting and many are still displaced. In addition to the danger of injury, many fear a resurgence in the recruitment of children into armed combat.

 “For now, a tenuous peace is holding, but the crisis in eastern DR Congo remains on the edge,” says Commanding Officer for MONUC, Colonel Chand Saroha. 


 

 

Video

19 September 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on humanitarian relief efforts in DR Congo.
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