The U.N. children’s agency says heavy fighting around Goma in the eastern DRC has forced thousands of already displaced people to flee once again. UNICEF said it’s particularly concerned about the psychological trauma that Congolese children may face.
The fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels has made an already unstable area even more unsafe for civilians.
“Our primary concern is the condition of women and children in and around Goma who are affected by the fighting; and of course, of the security and safety of our own personnel on the ground,” said Nona Zicherman, head of emergencies for UNICEF in the Democratic Republic of Congo and based in Kinshasa.
She said many thousands of people already have fled a site for the displaced several kilometers from Goma.
“Well, we know that there was significant population movement into Goma. UNICEF was present in Kanyaruchinya camp outside of Goma, which was home to around 60,000 people. And while we don’t have exact numbers, we know that a significant proportion of the residents of Kanyaruchinya and the surrounding villages have come into Goma, and have come into various sites and are living with host families in various neighborhoods inside Goma,” she said.
UNICEF is already providing assistance to hundreds of women and children seeking shelter at Goma’s Don Bosco Catholic Center.
“UNICEF’s message is always the same – that all parties to the conflict respect the rights of civilians; respect the right of humanitarian actors to access affected populations. That’s our biggest concern for the moment,” she said.
Zicherman added that UNICEF has emergency plans in place.
“UNICEF has a significant presence in Goma with significant emergency stock. So as soon as the emergency situation permits UNICEF staff and partners to move around the town and do assessments, we will be responding with essential household items, with shelter materials, with nutrition intervention, with health intervention, with water and sanitation interventions. We’re quite concerned about the possibility of cholera,” she said.
Cholera has been a problem before both in Goma and the Kanyaruchinya camp.