Refugees who fled fighting between government soldiers and Tutsi insurgents watch UN peacekeepers patroling on a road in Kibati, about 16 miles north of the provincial capital of Goma, DRC. October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer, courtesy www.alertnet.org
Humanitarian need mounts as thousands more people flee from their homes

Oxfam raises alarm about escalating Congo violence

“The world must act now and call for a ceasefire and solutions to this crisis before it's too late.”
Juliette Prodhan
Head of Oxfam in Congo
Published: 29 October 2008

Fresh fighting in eastern Congo has displaced tens of thousands more people from their homes, international aid agency Oxfam said today (Wednesday 29 October 2008) as it called for urgent action to bring the region back from the brink.

It is reported that 20,000 men, women and children fled from the Kibumba area, north of Goma on Monday. About 4,000 of these are currently camped on a makeshift site in Kibati, outside Goma town with very little humanitarian support. An unknown number of people from villages north of Kibumba fled in the opposite direction towards Rutshuru. Since August, some 200,000 people have been uprooted from their homes as fighting has surged between Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and the Congolese army.

Juliette Prodhan, head of Oxfam in Congo said: “The road to Goma town is a throng of men, women and children desperately searching for refuge in the town’s crowded camps. Many people have been forced to sleep out in the open as they cannot find shelter. The numbers fleeing are staggering. People urgently need our help. And yet it doesn't look like the fighting is over, so the likelihood is that more people will be fleeing in the coming days.”

Oxfam supplies clean water and sanitation to the camps around the Goma to minimize the spread of disease and has been scaling up its response to deal with the new influx. Over 15,000 more people have arrived at the already overstretched camps outside Goma in the past two months. Oxfam is also developing a plan to supply water and sanitation to a proposed new camp in the town, which will open if the situation continues to deteriorate.

As well as responding to immediate humanitarian needs, Oxfam International is calling on diplomats and foreign ministers to apply urgent pressure to stop the crisis escalating still further.

Juliette Prodhan said: “A peace deal – which was agreed in January this year – offered many in this region tremendous hope. The world should not sit by while it crumbles. Further violence will only cause more human misery and suffering for people who have already suffered too much. The world must act now and call for a ceasefire and solutions to this crisis before it's too late.”

Listen

Samual Ngabe, our Humanitarian Coordinator in Goma, gives first-hand account of what's happening in the DRC

Samuel Ngabe Interview - part 1 (mp3)

Samuel Ngabe Interview - part 2 (mp3)

Samuel Ngabe Interview - part 3 (mp3)

Notes to Editors

  1. On January 23, the Congolese government and 22 armed groups signed the Goma peace agreement, committing to an immediate ceasefire and observance of international human rights law. The Goma Agreement followed the November 2007 agreement between the governments of Congo and Rwanda, known as the Nairobi Communiqué, which sought to address the presence of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan armed group, in eastern Congo.
  2. Even before the recent upsurge of violence, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the worst places in the world to be a civilian. Since 1998, the country has lost 5.4 million people to conflict, and the deadly disease and hunger that it has unleashed. Over a million people are displaced in the eastern part of the country. Rape is endemic. This year more than 1,100 women a month have reported being raped, although the real figure is likely to be much higher.