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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Urgent needs in Goma

28 November 2012

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Urgent needs in Goma and surrounding area

Now that the front lines have shifted to the west of the city of Goma, in North Kivu province, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are redoubling their efforts to help displaced and wounded people.

"The news reaching us from areas to the west, south-west and north of Goma is worrying," said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). "Yesterday, one of our teams travelled to Sake, to the west of Goma, for the first time since the recent clashes. They visited Nzulo camp near Mugunga, between Sake and Goma, where people who had been forced to flee the fighting in Sake had taken refuge. However, they found the camp practically deserted as people had returned to Sake, where they now need help – particularly those whose houses had been looted or destroyed in the fighting. They have almost no food supplies and are unable to reach their fields." Another ICRC team is travelling to Minova in South Kivu, where there are reports of an influx of wounded people, mostly soldiers. The ICRC is also closely monitoring the plight of civilians in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories of North Kivu, which have been the scene of clashes in recent days.

The ICRC is endeavouring to maintain contact with all the parties to the conflict in North and South Kivu in order to ensure that it can enter the combat zone. "Without a commitment from the parties to the conflict that they will facilitate our work, we cannot reach people who urgently need to be taken to hospital or who have been arrested," explained Frédéric Boyer, head of the Goma sub-delegation. "People who live in or have fled to these areas must be spared and protected by the parties to the conflict. They are entitled to swift action to meet their basic needs."

Health-care personnel and facilities, which have already endured years of conflict, must be protected. "This is a very difficult time for medical staff. All the parties to the conflict must ensure that those staff can work without hindrance and in complete safety," added Mr Boyer.

Treating the wounded and sick
The ICRC surgical team, which was assigned to N'Dosho hospital in Goma two weeks ago, has operated on 30 patients – mostly civilians, including two women and two minors – since 17 November. "The lack of staff, equipment and premises delays the treatment of these patients," explained Mr Boyer. "We only have one anaesthetist, who is working in the operating room around the clock." To ease pressure on staff, the ICRC has assigned another anaesthetist to N'Dosho and has brought in local personnel to bolster the team working in the operating room. ICRC staff have reconnected the water supply to the operating room in order to maintain sterile conditions. They also make daily deliveries of water by truck to supply the rest of the hospital.

At Katindo military hospital in Goma, around 50 patients are awaiting treatment. "Some of them urgently need surgery if they are to survive their injuries," said Mr Boyer. "A second ICRC surgical team should be arriving in Goma soon to support the staff at Katindo hospital and treat the dozens of wounded patients there as soon as possible."

In Bukavu, South Kivu province, around 45 new patients with serious war wounds have arrived at the military hospital, which only has space for 35 beds. A further one hundred patients with minor injuries are seeking treatment in Saio military camp, attached to the hospital. The ICRC is currently assessing the capacity of local medical facilities to treat the most seriously injured, in order to offer its support where necessary.

Supplying water and electricity for over 500,000 people
The ICRC is continuing to truck drinking water to places in need in Goma. This includes the Don Bosco transit centre for children (sheltering 20,000 displaced people), the Notre Dame centre (housing a further 6,000 displaced people) and the N'Dosho and Katindo hospitals. Some days, the team delivers almost 100,000 litres of water.

Since last week, the ICRC has been refuelling generators, thereby ensuring a constant supply of water for some 500,000 people and providing power for blood banks, hospitals and street lighting. Three technicians from the national electricity board have been working since last Saturday to repair the high-tension cable that brings power to Goma. They were brought from Bukavu by ICRC staff.

Helping victims of sexual violence
The ICRC is reminding all parties to the conflict that international humanitarian law prohibits violations of personal integrity and human dignity, including acts of sexual violence, against any person. The parties have a duty to prevent and put a stop to such acts.

The ICRC has stepped up its support for the maison d'écoute (literally "listening house") run by the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Minova. The centre offers counselling for victims of violence, often sexual, and refers them to the health-care centre if post-rape medical attention is required.

Over the last 10 days, the ICRC has also:

• continued to take steps to visit people under arrest in Goma;
• registered 169 children separated from their families and reunited 15 children with their loved ones, in Goma and Bukavu, in cooperation with the national Red Cross;
• provided the Saio military camp in Bukavu with bedding (160 sleeping mats, 35 mattresses and 10 camp beds) to help the facility cope with the influx of wounded people;
• supported the work of the national Red Cross as its volunteers continue to collect and bury mortal remains. They have dealt with more than 90 bodies so far, 35 of which were retrieved from Rutshuru territory.

For more information, please visit our website: www.icrc.org

ENDS

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