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North Kivu: Tens of thousands of people displaced by new wave of violence

People are living in very precarious conditions, with no proper shelter, limited access to clean water and lack of food

IDPs in Kinoni school - about 350 families found refuge here

Violent clashes between the M23 armed group and the Congolese army (known by the French acronym FARDC) over the past two weeks in the territories of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. This recent mass displacement compounds the already precarious situation for displaced people in the two territories.

Prior to the latest clashes in Nyiragongo, the territory was hosting many people who were displaced by the volcano eruption in May 2021. In Rutshuru, fighting between the M23 and the FARDC end of March 2022 had already displaced approximately 50,000 people, about 25,000 of whom fled to Uganda. Most have not yet returned home.

Since the end of March, it is therefore estimated that 117,000 people sought refuge in schools, churches or with host families following the new wave of violence in this region of North Kivu. Most of them left everything behind.

Precarious living conditions

IDPs in Kinoni school  
Kinoni’s school where about 350 families found refuge after being forced to flee their homes due to clashes between the M23 and the Congolese army end of March 2022. People live in very precarious conditions and have received little humanitarian assistance so far. MSF set up a mobile clinic just close by and built several latrines and showers to improve the hygiene conditions in the school. 

"We are 18 families sleeping together, all crammed into a classroom,” said Noélla, who is living with two of her children in the school of Kinoni village, Rutshuru, with almost 350 other families. "We no longer have access to our fields. We eat what we can find, but often it's barely once a day."

In early May, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) set up a mobile clinic in Kinoni village, near the school where Noélla and many families are staying. Since then, the clinic has been running at full capacity. "We have done more than 2,200 consultations since we started the mobile clinic, meaning we see an average of 120 patients per day,” said Foura Sassou Madi, MSF’s head of mission in DRC. “The main diseases we see are malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea.”

MSF also organised a distribution of essential items including plastic sheeting, buckets, cooking utensils and soap for the displaced families staying in Kinoni. Our teams also built showers and latrines to improve the living conditions and hygiene in the village.

"Many people who have been displaced tell us that they have difficulty finding enough food,” said Foura Sassou Madi. “Some have been displaced for over two months now. Displaced people in Rutshuru territory need a food distribution as soon as possible to avoid a further deterioration of their health.”

Access to healthcare and drinking water is a priority

Medical consultation, Kinoni school
A medical consultation at the mobile clinic set up in  Kinoni school. 

In mid-April, MSF began supporting the health centres in Mungo and Rutsiro localities, Rutshuru, to ensure access to free healthcare for both the host and displaced communities. "In April and May, we treated over 1100 displaced people in the health centre. Some of them walked up to 5 kilometres to get here," said Ezéchiel Biriko, head nurse at Rutsiro health centre. Following the recent displacements, MSF is preparing to strengthen its response in Rutsiro, where about 6,500 displaced people are staying, with water and sanitation activities and an additional support to the health centre.

Access to healthcare and drinking water are also urgently needed in Munigi, Nyiragongo, where 16,000 people have sought refuge according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). MSF is supporting free care to all patients and set up a referral system for urgent cases to an hospital in Goma.

In the last week of May, MSF trucks have brought more than 100m3 of drinking water per day to the health centre and two other sites in Munigi where many displaced people have temporarily settled. "Access to clean water is crucial to limit the risk of water-borne diseases, such as cholera, which is endemic in the region," said Abdou Musengetsi Katumwa, MSF deputy medical coordinator in Goma.

Armed conflicts, that have affected North Kivu for more than 20 years, continue to impact adversely on civilians. MSF has been present in Rutshuru territory since 2005 and is currently working with four hospitals in Rutshuru, Bwiza, Kibirizi and Bambu, as well as a dozen health centres. In Goma, our teams have been involved in the cholera response since 2008 

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