GENEVA, Switzerland, October 22, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Armed violence has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people who fled their villages in north-central Katanga province. The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have started a major distribution of emergency aid.
Armed violence in Katanga province has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people since last year. “The people who have been driven from their homes have to struggle every day,” said Andrea Drury, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Katanga. “Because of the lack of security they are gripped with constant fear, and they are forced to be forever on the run.”
When incursions are made by armed groups, or fighting takes place between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and such groups, acts of violence committed against communities or targeting their leaders are frequent, and more and more looting is occurring. “The situation, in terms of security and access to food and other basic necessities, remains worrying,” said Ms Drury. To better respond to the needs of people suffering the effects of violence in the central and northern parts of the province, the ICRC has opened an office in Manono.
With the help of Congolese Red Cross volunteers, the ICRC has just started distributing tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen utensils, buckets, soap, hoes, plastic containers and hygiene products to some 33,000 displaced people and returnees in north-central Katanga, one of the remotest parts of the province, between Manono, Mitwaba, Malemba Nkulu and Pweto. Over 7,900 people received aid in Kipia and Kizeti, in Malemba Nkulu territory, south of the city of Manono. “Renewed instability over the past few days is prompting us to reassess the situation in the Shamwana area,” said Ms Drury. “As soon as security conditions permit, the distributions will resume in that area in particular.” Few humanitarian organizations are working in this part of the country owing to the distances involved, the logistical challenges and concerns about security conditions.
Complex logistics required to reach remote communities
In a vast area of 20,000 square kilometres and without infrastructure, aid is directed towards isolated areas away from the main roads where people have yet to receive any help. Villagers have to walk for long hours to reach the places where the aid distributions take place. “The distance doesn’t bother me – the help is so welcome,” said Emérance, who had to walk several kilometres from the village of Nonda to receive aid. “I’m happy that our needs are being attended to,” said Jeanine, a widowed mother of three from Kipia.
The condition of the tracks and makeshift bridges is complicating the distribution of aid. “It’s hard to reach certain areas because many of the bridges are too weak to be used by trucks. Some had to be shored up before being used, while others are completely impassable and have to be bypassed, which involves long detours,” said Adrien Mazamba Kambaja, the logistics specialist coordinating the operation.
Twenty-five children reunited with their families
Together with Congolese Red Cross volunteers, the ICRC helps restore contact between family members, in particular children, including former child soldiers, separated from their families by armed violence. In September, for the first time since 2006, the ICRC reunited children (25 in all, who had previously been recruited by armed groups) with their families in Katanga. Another 40 or so who had been recruited by armed forces or armed groups are currently in one of three transit centres in Lubumbashi or in a host family awaiting reunification with their families.
Aid for some 260 detainees
In the context of its visits to various civilian and military detention places in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC continues to visit four prisons in Katanga province. In Kipushi prison, it has provided temporary food aid for some 260 detainees. At the Buluo detention centre, vegetables grown in the centre’s own garden are improving the diets of around 300 detainees. The ICRC provided seed and monitored the vegetable production. Because the aid is temporary, the ICRC is doing all it can to ensure that the detainees are not subsequently forgotten. The organization is also visiting other permanent and temporary places of detention in the province, and is working closely with the authorities to promote humane treatment and conditions of detention that comply with national legislation and international standards.
Since the beginning of September, in Katanga province, the ICRC has also:
● provided medicines and other support for dispensaries in four prisons;
● raised awareness of international humanitarian law among 57 officers and non-commissioned officers of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
● provided financial support for a disaster-management workshop held by the Congolese Red Cross in the province.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)