Democratic Republic of the Congo: Growing concern for victims of fighting in North Kivu
GENEVA, Switzerland, November 1, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Fighting has once again broken out between government forces and armed group M23 in Rutshuru Territory, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, with major humanitarian consequences felt as far as Uganda and Rwanda.
“In situations like this, there's always a risk that rogue elements of the population, armed forces and armed groups will commit acts of revenge or retaliation,” said Alessandra Menegon, head of the ICRC delegation in the country. “We call on the authorities to do all they can to prevent this from happening.”
“Captured or surrendered combatants, and any other individuals arrested, must be treated humanely. Their lives and dignity must be preserved,” added Ms Menegon. “We hope to begin visiting these detainees shortly, to check the conditions in which they're being held.”
Since fighting began again on 25 October, the ICRC and the Red Cross Societies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have been working tirelessly to assist and protect people affected by the conflict, whether they have been wounded, displaced or have sought refuge in another country.
In Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, an ICRC surgical team is taking care of war-wounded patients at Ndosho hospital. Meanwhile, sufficient medical and surgical supplies for treating 50 war-wounded people have been delivered to Katindo military hospital, along with body bags. The ICRC is also supplying the facility with 10,000 litres of drinking water per day.
In conflict-affected areas, local Red Cross volunteers have started to collect and bury mortal remains. Their work is made all the more difficult by the threat posed by explosive remnants of war. An ICRC team has been in Rutshuru for the last two days, assessing humanitarian needs in the region. A second team is being sent out today, to strengthen the delivery of psychological care in the town's maison d'écoute, a support centre for victims of sexual violence.
In Rwanda, local Red Cross volunteers remain stationed along the border, ready to give first aid to wounded people fleeing the conflict. On Tuesday, an ICRC team visited Gisenyi hospital, where several wounded people had been admitted following clashes in Rutshuru. The ICRC is supporting the Rwandan hospital authorities by providing medical supplies and technical guidance, and an ICRC surgeon has been posted to the hospital to work alongside local staff. On 31 October, a patient in need of special care was transferred to a government hospital in Kigali.
Thousands of families have also fled to Uganda. The ICRC, with the support of Ugandan Red Cross volunteers active in the refugee camps, is offering refugees the chance to contact their relatives. Delegates are also working to identify children who seem to have become separated from their families as they fled their homes.