The eastern Congolese region of Masisi is the site of a growing humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of people face shortages of water, food and other vital services due to an increase in armed violence, aid agency Oxfam has said.
The region, in North Kivu, has been the centre of fighting between various armed forces over access to territory and minerals, creating a massive movement of civilians now sheltering in camps and villages.
Oxfam said aid to the area needs to be stepped up, and called on the Congolese government and MONUSCO peacekeepers to provide greater protection for civilians.
Oxfam is scaling up its work in the Rubaya area of Masisi to provide water and sanitation to over 45,000 displaced Congolese.
The lack of clean water has caused an increase in cholera cases reported in west of Masisi city.
Sanitation and water facilities barely exist across the area and systems that were constructed previously by Oxfam and other agencies need to be rehabilitated.
Violence has limited aid agencies’ access for months, but while the situation remains volatile, NGOs are now taking advantage of respite to start new programs.
“Due to increased insecurity, thousands of newly displaced people have been received in existing camps or settled in many new sites. People are rightly refusing to go home until they feel safe to do so. Masisi is one of the most challenging environments we’ve seen in the Congo in recent years. We call on all actors – UN agencies and national, regional governments and donors – to scale up their efforts to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis now unfolding,” said Sylvie Louchez, Country Director of Oxfam in DRC.
“The numbers we’re dealing with are too great to ignore. Literally hundreds of thousands of Congolese fear for their lives and need help urgently,” Sylvie Louchez added.
Oxfam warned that the violence is affecting people’s livelihoods and food security, preventing farmers from planting seeds for the next harvest and – together with deteriorating roads after a rainy season that has caused landslides and flooding – making it increasingly difficult for traders to reach markets.
“The lack of public services in Masisi means that the situation is dire. In many areas, no health services or water points are available on a regular basis. Some 70 per cent of people who have fled are staying with host communities, and this is pushing hundreds of thousands of people to the brink with very little water and not much food to share,” Louchez said.
Oxfam said the lack of protection from the national army and the UN peacekeeping force – MONUSCO – means communities have started to take justice into their own hands, forming patrols which are becoming small militias and risk further exacerbating violence.
“Communities need proper security so they don’t need to take up arms. The proliferation of small, armed groups is yet another threat to peace which must be addressed,” Louchez said.