In the eastern DRC, the humanitarian situation remains dire, as thousands of civilians continue to suffer the effects of fighting and atrocities, such as rape.
One of the aid groups working in the region is the International Rescue Committee. Bob Kitchen is head of emergency operations for the group. From Goma, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua insecurity has been on the rise, although Christmas has brought a lull in the fighting.
“We’re using the last couple of days and the week to come to try and get into communities that we haven’t been able to access over the last two weeks where there has been very, very heavy fighting between the warring parties,” he says.
Kitchen adds, “One of the areas…in the northeastern section of the Rutshuru territory…is right up against the border with Uganda. Over the last few weeks, there’s been heavy fighting between the Hutu-based SPLR rebel group and the Tutsi-based CNDP rebel group. This is an area where it’s completely lawless. The government has no representation. It’s just the two warring rebel groups and the defenseless civilian population caught in the middle. We haven’t been able to get in there for more than a month now because of the violence. While it’s been localized, it’s been completely unpredictable and ongoing.
“We’ve been dealing remotely with health providers. They were forced to leave their homes in the middle of the night. They chose not to carry their own belongings. They ran away with as many drugs as they could carry so they could continue providing care to their communities. And we hear from them every few days…when they can power-up their cell phones. They tell stories about providing health services under trees, wherever they can find safety…this week we heard from them that they’ve seen more than 80 women who were violently raped during the last month at the hands of the two warring parties up there.”
The IRC hopes to get back in the area this week. The aid group recently received a large grant from UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, to increase emergency operations. Kitchen says, “In the next six months, we’re going to be delivering aid to more than 350,000 people under this new program. We’ll be delivering blankets, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting. We’ll be digging thousands of emergency latrines to help with the outbreaks of cholera that we’re seeing around North Kivu.