Humanitarian agencies continue to try to keep up with the
ever-changing humanitarian crisis in the eastern DRC. The UN refugee agency is
moving thousands of displaced Congolese further away from the front lines; and
aid agencies are rushing to keep up with their food, medical and sanitation
Eleanor Raikes, emergency response coordinator in
the eastern DRC for the International Rescue Committee, spoke from Goma to VOA
English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the problems faced by the
"The situation for displaced people here is
extremely bleak. There are hundreds of thousands of people who still need
urgent assistance. Two of the main areas (where) we find the most urgent needs
(are) in terms of access to drinking water and then improving sanitation conditions.
IDPs, or displaced people, are gathered in very crowded areas in makeshift
camps or sheltering in schools or churches without enough access to latrines
and without access to enough clean water, which is increasing the rate of
diseases like diarrhea, but also cholera," she says.
Raikes says it's been difficult reaching all
those in need. Many are lacking very basic things, such as household items.
"People have been displaced perhaps, three, four or five times in the last few
months and they've actually lost pretty much everything they owned," she says.
The main reason for the lack of access to the
displaced is the lack of security caused by the fighting or movement of
combatants. "Access for humanitarian agencies here is still very highly
dependent on security, which is extremely volatile. We may be able to access an
area for a few days or perhaps a couple of weeks, but that access is not
guaranteed. And we frequently over the past month or so have had to pull out
our teams from the ground due to deterioration in security," she says.
The IRC emergency coordinator says that there are
still "large areas" of North Kivu Province that remain "out of reach to
humanitarian agencies." The organization currently has about 10 locations in
the province staffed by "mobile teams" that can evacuate quickly should danger
The humanitarian crisis in the eastern DRC
includes efforts to stem a cholera outbreak. Raikes says, "We have water and
sanitation teams working in…three or four different locations at the moment.
We're building emergency latrines and we are trying to provide very rapid
solutions to improve water supply. It is a huge challenge because you're
looking at camps with tens of thousands of people in them, very crowded and
with an immediate need in terms of improving sanitation. "The IRC is planning
to build up to 500 latrines "as soon as possible."
It's also been difficult to stop
the spread of cholera because of the movement of thousands of people. Raikes
says, "Diseases like cholera have actually spread across the province to new
areas where cholera was not a problem before."