The upsurge fighting in
the Eastern DRC is disrupting humanitarian operations there. One of the
organizations that have medical clinics in the region is the International
Committee of the Red Cross. From Geneva, ICRC spokesperson Marcal Izard talked
to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about how the fighting
has affected the organization's programs.
"What we know is that in Northern Kivu
(Province), which is north of the city of Goma, people are fleeing the recent
clashes. Since last Sunday, since 26TH of October, there has a been
an upsurge in clashes between the rebel army of the National Congress of the
Defense of the People on one hand and the army of the country on the other
hand. And there are reports of 20 to 30,000 people minimum that have fled in
the last days and they are heading towards (the) Goma area," he says.
The ICRC operates many clinics in the region.
Izard says, "We are present in the DRC (for) decades already and also in
northern Kivu area we have a presence in Goma, a permanent presence. So we are
able to supply the people who fled their homes with food and water and shelter,
but not at this precise moment. I mean now what we have to do is to see where
they are heading to because it is very fluid at this moment…. People are
running from one place to the other and in this moment you cannot assist right
away. You have to first see where they are staying."
The ICRC has a surgical team based in Goma that's
been treating people with war wounds. "We want now to increase our medical
support in Northern Kivu because that is one of the major priorities now," he
Because many ICRC staff are confined to their
homes or offices because of the fighting, it's hard to get an accurate picture
of what's happening on the ground and how many wounded there are. Asked whether
the ICRC is considering evacuating from Goma, Izard says, "At this moment
clearly we are intending to stay because it's where we are needed… We have to
remain there in order to assist the people…. We have (the) intention actually
not to decrease, but rather to increase, especially our medical team. So, as
long as we can we will obviously stay."
He says the ICRC is staffing and supplying
17 medical clinics in North and South Kivu (Provinces), "which is the whole
eastern Congo. And this serves over 600,000 people there." The organization is
also distributing water to over 10,000 people in one camp, in Kanyabayonge in
North Kivu. And we have also been repairing damaged water supply systems in
several cities.… Together with the Congolese Red Cross, we have recently been
giving food to 40,000 people in the Rutshuru District." Rutshuru is the scene
of the heaviest fighting at this time.