Violent clashes between the M23 armed group and the Congolese army (known by the French acronym FARDC) over the past two weeks in the territories of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
This recent mass displacement compounds the already precarious situation for displaced people in the two territories. Prior to the latest clashes in Nyiragongo, the territory was hosting many people who were displaced by the volcano eruption in May 2021.
In Rutshuru, fighting between the M23 and the FARDC end of March 2022 had already displaced approximately 50,000 people, about half of whom fled to Uganda. Most have not yet returned home.
Since the end of March, it is therefore estimated that 117,000 people sought refuge in schools, churches or with host families following the new wave of violence in this region of North Kivu. Most of them left everything behind.
“We are 18 families sleeping together, all crammed into a classroom,” said Noélla, who is living with two of her children in the school of Kinoni village, Rutshuru, with almost 350 other families. “We no longer have access to our fields. We eat what we can find, but often it’s barely once a day.”
In early May, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) set up a mobile clinic in Kinoni village, near the school where Noélla and many families are staying. Since then, the clinic has been running at full capacity.
“We have done more than 2,200 consultations since we started the mobile clinic, meaning we see an average of 120 patients per day,” said Foura Sassou Madi, MSF’s head of mission in DRC. “The main diseases we see are malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea.”
MSF also organised a distribution of essential items including plastic sheeting, buckets, cooking utensils and soap for the displaced families staying in Kinoni. Our teams also built showers and latrines to improve the living conditions and hygiene in the village.
“Many people who have been displaced tell us that they have difficulty finding enough food,” said Foura Sassou Madi. “Some have been displaced for over two months now. Displaced people in Rutshuru territory need food distribution as soon as possible to avoid a further deterioration of their health.”
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), access to healthcare and drinking water are also urgently needed in Munigi, Nyiragongo, where 16,000 people have sought refuge.