|One of the many camps in which thousands of displaced Congolese seek safety from violence, Masisi, eastern Congo (Danilo Giannese/JRS)|
|Since April 29, 2012, at least 20,000 people have fled their home villages for Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, and another 3,500 have crossed the border into Rwanda.|
(Goma, Rome, Washington, D.C.) May 7, 2012 – "It is nearly impossible to believe that, year after year, the lives of people in eastern Congo continue to be destroyed. The international community must commit to ensuring this region becomes safe and finally free of the armed groups, interested only in its natural resources, who prevent innocent civilians from living in peace," said Jesuit Refugee Service Great Lakes Regional Director Fr Tony Calleja S.J.
Fr Calleja was describing the humanitarian crisis which broke out in North Kivu last week, following violent clashes between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and a large group of deserters loyal to General Bosco Ntaganda, for whom the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity and recruitment of child soldiers.
Since April 29, 2012, at least 20,000 people have fled their home villages for Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, and another 3,500 have crossed the border into Rwanda.
"Exact numbers are surely much higher. We have good reason to believe that at least 30,000 people are seeking refuge in other areas of the Congolese province," continued Fr Calleja.
"In addition to seeking concrete long-term solutions to this emergency from the international community, we hope the Congolese army retakes control of the situation as soon as possible to allow thousands of men, women and children to return to the place where they have a right to be: their own homes," added Fr Calleja.
The particularly violent nature of the raids by local and foreign armed groups is one of the principal causes behind the on-going forced displacement in North Kivu. These groups are responsible for the most heinous of human rights violations, such as the rape of women and girls, and the expropriation of land and possessions of local inhabitants. The UN Security Council has also condemned the situation, calling on the rebels to lay down their arms as a necessary condition for the restoration of security.
"Thousands of people have arrived in Goma in the last few days. More than 7,000 have found safety in Mugonga III camp, established following the 2008 crisis. Others have found refuge with friends and family, as well as in a Protestant church and a nearby school. Their humanitarian needs are enormous, particularly access to drinking water, proper sanitary facilities, food, and other basic necessities," said JRS Democratic Republic of Congo Director Romeo Cagatin SVD.
"For the moment, we are focusing our assistance on people who have sought shelter in churches, planning to distribute food and other necessities," added Fr Cagatin.
Even though the war in Congo officially ended in 2003, clashes between rebel groups and with the armed forces in North Kivu have continued. According to figures released at the beginning of 2012, of the more than two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, more than half a million live in North Kivu.
JRS in the Democratic Republic of Congo
JRS teams present inside and outside the IDP camps in Masisi and Mweso provide three types of services: secondary school education, informal education for women and girls and emergency assistance to displaced persons – such as older and ill people, orphans, widows, and pregnant women – in particularly vulnerable circumstances.
JRS also has established an emergency assistance project in response to impromptu population movements. These projects focus on the provision of education services to primary school children, and the distribution of food and other basic necessities.
JRS works in more than 50 countries around the world. The organization employs more than 1,400 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of 650,000 refugees and IDPs, more than half of whom are women. Its services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
For further information contactJames Stapleton
International Communications Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service (International Office)
Tel: +39-06 68977468 Fax: +39-06 6897 7461
email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.jrs.net
Regional Advocacy and Communications Officer
JRS Great Lakes Africa
Tel: +257 78991302; email: email@example.com
202-462-0400 ext. 5946