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DR Congo: Red Cross deeply concerned by attacks on civilians

Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC deeply concerned by attacks on civilians

Geneva/Kinshasa, 8 August 2012 – With clashes in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo growing in intensity over the past three months, ever more civilians are falling victim to the violence.

"Although the situation in the Kivus has been fragile and problematic for several years, the abuse of the civilian population we have been seeing in recent months is extremely worrying and contrary to all basic humanitarian principles," said Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the delegation of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kinshasa. "In addition, the increasingly ethnic character of the recent violence is a cause for serious concern."

Apart from the fighting taking place and the overall lack of security in North and South Kivu, the nature of certain attacks is also jeopardizing access to care for the injured and the sick.

"Sometimes, it's enough to just want to rescue an injured person, considered by one of the warring parties as an enemy, to be in danger," said Mr Rauchenstein.

The looting of health-care centres is becoming more frequent and depriving entire communities of medical care, sometimes for as long as several weeks.

"It is essential that the injured, the sick and others severely affected by the conflict be attended to – and that cannot be done without a minimum level of security," said Mr Rauchenstein. "Medical personnel are doing a remarkable job with minimal resources in ever more difficult conditions. They often have to cope with influxes of displaced people despite being in an extremely vulnerable situation themselves."

For weeks, volunteers of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been at considerable risk whenever they have endeavoured to bury people killed in clashes, after seeking to identify them.

Together with the Congolese Red Cross, the ICRC is helping civilians in both Kivus, including in areas that are hard to reach. It is providing health-care centres and hospitals with medical supplies to enable them to cope with the influx of casualties and to carry on with their work even if they are looted. ICRC staff regularly transfer injured patients to hospitals in Goma and Bukavu. Basic health-care services, such as vaccinations and prenatal checkups, are also a focus of concern for the ICRC. In remote areas of North and South Kivu, more than 2,500 children under five years of age have been inoculated against disease and around 1,000 patients have been seen by ICRC staff since June.

ICRC delegates maintain regular contacts with parties to the various conflicts to remind them of the basic principles of international humanitarian law. They impress on the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and on armed groups the need to ensure that civilians are protected and spared, and that health-care personnel and humanitarian workers are not attacked and are allowed to bring aid without distinction to all who require it. In addition, the ICRC organizes training in first aid for the parties to the conflicts so that their wounded can rapidly receive proper emergency care.

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