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People in Spontaneous IDP Camps in North Kivu in Urgent Need of Aid

Refugee children, displaced by continued fighting in north Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), wait for food in the Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro town, 521 km (324 miles) southwest of Uganda's capital Kampala, July 13, 201
The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says 60,000 Congolese civilians living at spontaneous internally displaced persons—IDP--camp sites in north Kivu province are in need of water and other basic services, as fighting between government forces and M23 militia in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo continues to cause people to flee their homes and seek shelter elsewhere.

The agency says spontaneous civilian-made IDP camps have been sprouting up in the area, and the largest is in and around the village of Kanyaruchinya, which is about 20 kilometers north of Goma.

The UNHCR says it and local authorities have encouraged the new residents to move to safer, organized IDP camps where there is more access to services; however the people do not want to move because those camps are further away from their homes.

The UNHCR says generalized violence in eastern DRC has forced the displacement of about 400,000 people in spontaneous camps who are in urgent need of aid.

“People in these spontaneous settlements are really in the most difficult predicament at the moment. Many of them are without adequate food and water and shelter. Across the Kivu’s--that’s the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo--we have seen tens and tens of thousands of people displaced over the months since April of this year--many of them living in these spontaneous settlements, “said Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Edwards said the workers on the ground are trying to access the areas of the spontaneous camp sites to help these people who are living in extremely difficult conditions.

Edwards said this particular area of the DRC has seen repeated displacements over the years. About 60,000 people who were displaced are now refugees across the border. Those in the spontaneous settlements are in a very insecure area because these sites are not formal camps, and it is difficult for aid workers to reach people.

“So the tales we hear of hardship, of families having to live under really difficult conditions, are quite heart-rending at the moment. It is an ongoing crisis-- one of the major emergencies we are facing anywhere in the world,” said Edwards.

Edwards said the agency has appealed for an additional 7 ½ million dollars to help the 400,000 people who are displaced in eastern DRC.

“Money for Africa operations in general, and recognize we are also dealing with a big crisis in Mali, and another one in South Sudan this year. The funds haven’t been coming in at the rate we want, and we are appealing to donors to help us, and also members of the public to make donations through our website,” said Edwards.

Another major concern for people living in spontaneous camps is the weather. Edwards said at this time of year nights are cold in this part of Africa, and people do not have enough shelter to keep warm. He said when you combine all of the elements that people are dealing with on a daily basis--the short supply of water, the volcanic ash that surrounds the people, and the chaos that the fighting has caused--life is difficult. To listen to the entire interview with Kim Lewis and Adrian Edwards click on audio.