Some of Congolese refugees.

Intense and continuous clashes between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and M23 fighters in Rutshuru territory have caused more than 72,000 people to flee their homes in the space of a week.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls on the actors concerned to protect civilians and facilitate the work of humanitarian personnel who are working to help the population .

The fighting has moved closer to several villages including those of Katale and Buvunga northwest of Rumangabo, creating panic among the population for several days. “On the road between Rutshuru and Goma, you can see thousands of people fleeing on foot or on motorbikes. Some villagers left with their cattle because it is often their only means of subsistence,” Raphaël Ténaud, head of the sub-delegation for the ICRC in Goma said.

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Due to clashes not far from a site used to distribute food in Rugari, the ICRC was forced to suspend the current distribution in this area on 24 May 2022. “We call on all actors involved to do everything in their power to spare civilians and facilitate the work of Red Cross personnel who are working to help the population,” said Rachel Bernhard, head of the delegation for the ICRC in the DRC.

With the arrival of new displaced persons, living conditions are extremely precarious in the makeshift camps. Thus, in the locality of Kanyaruchinya, located nearly ten kilometers from Goma, more than 3,600 people have found refuge in churches, as well as inside and around a school. They are mostly women and children.

“Families are crammed into classrooms. Others sleep on the ground in the yard next to their cattle at the mercy of the weather. They lack water, shelter and food. Precarious hygiene, the absence of clean water and overcrowding are all risks of seeing cholera appear,” Raphaël Ténaud said

Faced with the emergency, an ICRC team installed flexible drinking water tanks to improve hygiene conditions and ensure a daily supply for 10,000 people, including those affected by the volcanic eruption The latter showed exemplary solidarity by welcoming in turn the new displaced families.

The ICRC continues to do everything in its power to obtain the security guarantees necessary to reach the populations whose access to healthcare and basic necessities is seriously compromised in this period of armed confrontation.

“We strive to maintain a bilateral and confidential dialogue with armed forces and groups to ensure that the civilian population is respected and protected and that the evacuation of the wounded and sick can take place without hindrance,” concludes Rachel Bernhard.

In coordination with the Congolese authorities and with other humanitarian actors stands ready to meet the needs of displaced populations and host communities in the areas of health, drinking water supply and the distribution of food and essential household items.