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Escalating conflict in Eastern DRC raises concerns for civilian safety and humanitarian access


Kinshasa February 8, 2024



Member organizations of the International NGO Forum in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are raising an alarm on the serious consequences of the escalation of the conflict in eastern DRC for the security and lives of civilians and humanitarian access, particularly in the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo in North Kivu.

Since November 2023, clashes between government forces (FARDC) and the M23 have led to the displacement of more than a million people, compounding the already disastrous humanitarian crisis with 2.4 million additional displaced people in North Kivu. In recent weeks, NGOs have witnessed a worrying escalation in the intensity of fighting and means of warfare, with heavy artillery and mortar attacks on civilian settlements and densely populated areas, including the Goma's outskirts, causing a heavy toll in civilian lives and infrastructure.

“The increase in civilian casualties and the use of heavy weapons in populated areas, including in camps for displaced people, are alarming,” said Luc Lamprière, director of the Forum of International NGOs in the DRC (FONGI- DRC). “Civilians, especially the most vulnerable, face increased risks, with mortar shelling reported near hospitals, schools and displacement camps and sites.»

The conflict has triggered mass displacements in several localities, exacerbating the vulnerability of internally displaced people and host communities. The main roads around Goma and Sake, crucial for the movement of civilians and humanitarian aid, have become impassable due to intensified fighting, further restricting access to essential services. Residents of affected areas are leaving their homes. People living in displacement sites are moving again. Health centers are empty.

“The situation requires urgent action to protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access,” said the Forum director. “All parties to the conflict must adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights, ending indiscriminate attacks and allowing safe access to humanitarian assistance.”

Disturbing reports of targeted killings, enforced disappearances and harassment of civilians by parties to the conflict underline the deteriorating situation, with international NGOs forced to suspend their activities in affected areas due to the loss of humanitarian access. Lifesaving assistance to tens of thousands of people is currently suspended due to the situation.

“In light of these developments, it is imperative that all parties involved respect international humanitarian law and prioritize the security and well-being of civilians,” emphasized Luc Lamprière. “We call for concerted efforts in humanitarian diplomacy to ensure the protection of civilians and facilitate unhindered access to life-saving assistance.”

Members of the International NGO Forum in the Democratic Republic of Congo reiterate their commitment to supporting the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo during this difficult period and call on the international community to join forces to end the suffering of those affected by the conflict.

For more information on this communication, please contact Luc Lampriere: representative@forumongi-rdc.org

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