13 September 2004
Thousands of Civilians Flee Their Homes in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
KINSHASA, 10 September (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) -- More than 15,000 civilians have fled their homes in the past two weeks in North Kivu Province, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to humanitarian sources. Fearing armed confrontations and exactions from armed groups, civilians have reportedly taken flight from villages around Mangurejipa and Ndjiyapanda, North Kivu Province to seek refuge approximately 80 kms away in the Butembo region (also part of North-Kivu). All internally displaced persons (IDPs) have reportedly endured a three-day trek through a dense forest to reach relative safety.
I am deeply concerned by the recent events and call on all armed groups in this area to respect the rights of civilians so they can return home safely, said the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Herbert Mcleod.
The Mangurejipa zone, inaccessible to humanitarian actors since 1999, is a mineral-rich region and has been a battleground for armed groups for the past five years. A radical branch of the Mayi-Mayi armed opposition maintains control in this area and is reportedly refusing integration into the national army.
German Agro Action, a non-governmental organization, and its local partner MAD (Mission for Aid to Displaced) have established a registration system for the newly arriving IDPs. As of 8 September, a total of 3,350 families (or 16,750 persons) had been registered in the five following principal localities and sought refuge with host families:
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), GAA (German Agro Action), and ECHO (the Humanitarian Aid Office at the European Commission), planning is already under way for a food (WFP, GAA) and non-food item (ECHO, GAA) distribution in favour of this vulnerable group. The health situation is of particular concern because the only non-governmental organization (NGO) working in the health sector in Butembo, ASRAMES, has declared that it does not have sufficient medical stock to respond to this emergency. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has a representative on the ground in Butembo who is currently advocating for the mobilization of health assistance and to identify other unmet needs.
Ive asked the OCHA office to reinforce its presence in the area in order to ensure active advocacy for the protection of the newly displaced populations in this region, Herbert Mcleod said.
OCHA is in permanent contact with local authorities and humanitarian partners to mobilize a rapid and efficient humanitarian response, said Jahal de Meritens, Head of OCHA in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Establishing humanitarian access to the Mangurejipa region will be the next priority, he said.
The new IDPs from the Mangurejipa region are not the only vulnerable groups requiring protection and humanitarian assistance in central North Kivu Province. Just last month, an estiated 25,000 people reportedly fled fighting in northern Rutshuru territory to seek refuge in southern Lubero territory. Humanitarian action and protection efforts are also under way for this vulnerable population. As of August 2004, OCHA estimated that there were 2.3 million IDPs and 725,000 returnees needing assistance and protection in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For further information, please contact: UNOCHA, tel: +243 88 45 573, 98 60 44 41, 99 81 875, +871 762 904 845 / 48; fax: +871 762 904 846; e-mail: email@example.com
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