DRC: Humanitarians pick up the pieces as insecurity persists in North Kivu
IDPs at the Bulengo IDP camp in Goma, north Kivu
GOMA, 30 June 2008 (IRIN) - Violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s embattled North Kivu province this year has boosted the total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) to some 857,000. The scale and fluidity of the crisis, coupled with the fact that many of the displaced live with families rather than in camps, has led aid workers to adapt their responses.
"This year has seen the worst humanitarian situation in the province; about half a million people became displaced within a short period of time," Patrick Lavand’Homme, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Goma (OCHA-Goma), said.
Clashes involving the plethora of armed groups in the region and regular army have continued, despite the January signing of a ceasefire
by most of them.
For instance, most of the IDPs in the four camps nearest Goma, the main town in North Kivu, have fled their homes since the start of 2008.
"I arrived in March from Sake [north of Goma]," Jeanine Maombi, 22, mother of two, told IRIN at the Bulengo camp, home to at least 16,000 IDPs. "A lot of us at this camp arrived this year but I know some who have been here for years."
Fitina Kabumba and Saverina Tumaini are among another batch of IDPs who arrived at Bulengo in September 2007. The nearby IDP camps of Mugunga 1, Mugunga 2 and Buhimba hold thousands of IDPs, each with a story of displacement similar to that of Maombi, Kabumba and Tumaini. The camps are less than 10km south of Goma.
"We fled when fighting intensified in Masisi eight months ago and I am now forced to cramp my family of five children, two of then aged 18 and 15, into a tiny tent in this camp," Tumaini said. Targeting host communities
The story is the same in many camps around North Kivu but, with at least 70 percent of the IDPs having sought refuge with "host families", relief agencies have adopted aid delivery strategies, targeting communities rather than the IDPs alone. Host communities now benefit from services such as health, water and education that previously targeted the displaced.
Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
|Children playing in a classroom at Bulengo IDP camp, Goma|
“Host families also face the same security concerns that the IDPs experience because as a result of the insecurity, they have less access to their fields, so we assist not only the IDPs but also the host families who have shown such generosity,” Lavand’Homme said. “We are now providing more community-based assistance in the fields of health services, water provision and education activities.”
An aid worker, who requested anonymity, said the province was over-militarised, with up to 50,000 people bearing arms, most of them in the southern part.
The Congolese army has an estimated 20,000 soldiers in the province, while the armed groups, including the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Mayi-Mayi militiamen and troops loyal to renegade army commander Laurent Nkunda, account for the rest. The FDLR comprises groups of armed Hutu groups, many of them remnants of militias largely blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The FDLR has been active in eastern DRC for more than a decade.
"Even in places where fighting has not gone on for a while, we find that the displaced have yet to return to their homes because they don't feel safe enough or fear more harassment from security forces," the aid worker said.
The situation is made even more precarious for civilians because the Congolese army, as well as the armed groups, often turn to the population for food and money. Improved capacity
Despite the poor state of security in parts of the province, Lavand’Homme told IRIN that better management of IDP camps and monitoring of civilian protection had led to improved aid delivery.
"Since adopting the CCCM [camp coordination and camp management] system [in 2007] and a rapid response mechanism during emergencies, the humanitarian community has seen a great deal of improvement in aid delivery," he said. "This way, we ensure that food and non-food items are distributed even hours after an emergency; and that this assistance continues on an emergency basis for at least three months."
Lavand’Homme said the capacity of humanitarian agencies had also improved following the implementation of a protection-monitoring mechanism, spearheaded by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
This, he said, "ensures that we keep track of protection issues as well as undertake advocacy efforts for the affected population". Higher standards
Yannick Martin, the project manager in charge of camp management for NRC, said the CCCM system operated in 11 out of 13 structured IDP camps in the province.
Photo: Nicholai Lidow/IRIN
|The number of IDPs in North Kivu is growing, despite the signing of a peace accord in January|
It had contributed to improved standards – restructuring of tents to allow for fire corridors and enough space around tents to help prevent the transmission of communicable diseases - even in "spontaneous" camps, where IDPs seek refuge without assistance from the humanitarian community. In such camps, Martin said, the CCCM system helps in restructuring the accommodation to ensure it meets international standards.
Governance within the camps had also improved, with regular elections of IDP representatives, Martin said.
"The benefit of CCCM is high respect of international standards, coordinated humanitarian assistance and improved protection of IDPs," Martin said.
The CCCM system is part of measures introduced in 2007 under the UN’s humanitarian reform process. UNHCR, as the lead agency for CCCM, supports and works with various stakeholders to improve delivery for IDPs in the three related areas of camp response – camp administration, coordination and management. In North Kivu, the camp administrator is the office of the governor while UNHCR is the camp coordinator and NRC the camp manager.