Disastrous humanitarian and health crisis in Congo

Twa Dance, Congo Twa Dance, Congo Photo by guenterguni via iStock

As the conflict in Congo intensifies, population displacements are increasing

As Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports, fighting between the M23 armed group and the Congolese army (FARDC) and its allies has intensified in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), two years after their outbreak, causing new mass displacements.
In the past two weeks, violent clashes in Masisi territory, North Kivu, have forced the civilian population to flee to Sake and Goma, the provincial capital, and it is estimated that in just 10 days, almost 250,000 people have had to flee their homes.

In the places where they take refuge, people live huddled together with little or no protection, and struggle to obtain necessary food and drinking water. The main roads are inaccessible due to insecurity and fighting, so it is extremely difficult to get supplies to the population.

The health facilities supported by MSF are crowded with increasing numbers of patients suffering from diseases related to deteriorating living conditions and poor hygiene.
Indeed, the humanitarian organization fears outbreaks of diseases, particularly cholera, as the fighting has forced thousands of people to settle in overcrowded and unsanitary sites.
The situation was already dramatic before the escalation of the fighting, due to low vaccination coverage among children under five years of age. Poorly functioning health facilities also contributed to this, due to a shortage of drugs and a lack of qualified health personnel.

The exodus of thousands of displaced civilians comes as UN forces (MONUSCO) withdraw, as reported by Al-Jazeera. The DRC has called for the withdrawal of the remaining 13,500 troops and 2,000 policemen, despite international concern about violence by armed groups.
The local population has criticised UN troops for failing to protect civilians in the eastern part of the country, but some have expressed fears of a possible security vacuum.

Human Rights Watch, as it reports, urges Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi to promote the protection of human rights, in particular to prioritise the protection of civilians in conflict areas, and adopt systemic reforms to ensure the rule of law, reform the judiciary, tackle corruption and strengthen democracy.

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