from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – THE intensifying conflict between the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Congolese army (FARDC) is threatening humanitarian organisations’ capacity to respond to the needs of victims.
It was anticipated a ceasefire between the warring parties would end the conflict in the east of the country but instead, fighting has escalated in recent days.
The war in the North Kivu province had previously been confined to Rutshuru territory. It has spread to Masisi, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee for the provincial capital of Goma.
“This crisis is on the way to becoming a humanitarian catastrophe,” Anne-Sylvie Linder, head of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sub-delegation in Goma, warned.
“If the displacement continues, it will outstrip our capacity to respond, and that of the other humanitarian organizations,” she stated further.
The official said for example, there might not be space to take all of the people that had fled their homes.
“Already there is no room left in Nyiragongo territory, which took in the first arrivals,” Linder said.
Humanitarians estimate that there are now more than 300 000 displaced people in Goma.
Aside from the makeshift camps where people fleeing the fighting have sought refuge, a number of people from the area, themselves living in insecure circumstances, have taken new arrivals into their homes.
Needs include first aid, improving access to water and sanitation as well as restoring family links.
Pascal Hundt, head of the ICRC delegation in the DRC expressed concern the conflict is nearing densely populated urban areas.
“ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict that they must respect international humanitarian law, including by taking every feasible precaution to protect civilians and civilian objects from combat,” Hundt stated.
A ceasefire had been anticipated to take effect on March 7 but M23 has not relented from battle.
– CAJ News