Media CenterAmidst a simmering conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, CRS calls for peace, pushes for more humanitarian support
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Catholic Relief Services
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Jennifer Lazuta (based in Dakar)
Catholic Relief Services
+221 78 621 98 75
Carlos Barrio (based in Madrid)
Catholic Relief Services
DAKAR, SENEGAL, July 28, 2022 – As a humanitarian crisis grows increasingly dire across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu province, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is calling for peace as well as for humanitarian support for the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting. Alarmingly, several months of increasingly violent clashes between armed groups and the Congolese army have newly displaced thousands of families across the DRC and into neighboring Uganda.
To address the growing needs, CRS is urging the international community to increase its support for families fleeing the violence.
“CRS is growing increasingly alarmed by the deteriorating security situation, forcing people to flee their homes, negatively impacting their health and livelihoods,” said Dr. Ghislain Mukuna, a health program manager who oversees CRS’ emergency response in North Kivu. “These families urgently need safe and dignified shelter, food, sanitation, water, household items, and access to schools and income.”
Most families have had to leave everything behind as they’ve fled armed groups with little-to-no notice. Many displaced families in North Kivu are living in churches, schools, or with host communities. It’s estimated that more than 158,000 people need assistance in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories alone. Meanwhile, more than 26,000 people need support in Uganda’s Kisoro region, including within its Nakivale refugee settlement.
Unfortunately, aiding families in the DRC has become more difficult due to the closure of North Kivu’s main market border crossing with Uganda. In fact, supplies are only available through a prolonged transit from Uganda to Rwanda, before entering the DRC.
“A journey of a few miles now requires several days of travel, which affects the cost and the delivery time,” Dr. Mukuna said.
Other displaced families are fleeing into neighboring Uganda, overwhelming the Kisoro district along the border. According to the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 40,000 refugees have received assistance in the district’s main transit center since late March. This sudden influx of refugees is stressing local support services and has led to reports of tension, violence and harassment. What’s more, basic standards for shelter and sanitation are not being met due to a lack of resources.
Historically, the refugee response in Uganda has been critically underfunded. To make matters worse, humanitarian and government leaders did not anticipate responding to such a rapid influx of refugees. As a result of the unexpected surge, the quality of care for refugees has suffered. For example, in the Nakivale refugee settlement, over 9,000 recent arrivals – the majority women and children – face health risks from a lack of water, too few latrines, and insufficient food.
“Uganda continues welcoming and hosting refugees and asylum seekers as the security situation in eastern DRC, for decades, remains delicate,” states Ian De La Rosa, Head of Programs of CRS Uganda. “There is a need for lasting peace in the DRC to bring to an end the untold suffering of the civilian population and allow for children, women and youth to access health, education and economic opportunities.”
In the meantime, those caught up in the fighting continue to suffer.
"We arrived at the Bunagana border exhausted, cold, hungry,” said Edina, a 26-year-old Congolese mother who is currently living in the Nyakabande transit center. “We first settled at the border in DRC, but when the fighting got closer, we were moved to the Nyakabande transit center. Here, there is no means of earning money. All we have is some basic food and a few other items. It is difficult to keep my children clothed, fed and healthy."
She adds that while going back home may take time, she’s hesitant to move to the refugee settlements in Uganda.
“I wish we could have peace again," she said.
CRS in DRC, in partnership with Caritas Development Goma, is providing household and kitchen items, such as sleeping mats, jerry cans, wash basins, cooking pots and clothing kits, to more than 3,800 families affected by the armed conflict in Rutshuru territory, and 3,800 women and girls with intimate hygiene kits. Meanwhile, CRS Uganda and Caritas Kabale are supporting refugees with shelter and latrines, as well as hygiene items for 500 extremely vulnerable families, reaching over 4,500 people in total.
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
CRS Online Press Room: www.crs.org/press-room