More than 800 000 people out of 914 000 displaced by war and conflict in North Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2012 have received little or no assistance and protection because they have been left out of coordination mechanisms, Refugees International lamented in a shocking report published last week.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is also rampant, and programs to protect women and girls are insufficient, RI said.
“Unfortunately, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) only coordinates support for persons living in official camps, 112 000 people, or one ninth of the displaced population. Displaced persons in remote areas, particularly those living in “spontaneous settlements” and with host families have been left out,” Refugees International said in its DR Congo: Outdated Approach, Misplaced Priorities report authored by Caelin Briggs and Marcy Hersh.
Reports said fighting between underpaid, ill-equipped and badly-trained government forces and M23 rebel group backed by Rwanda and Uganda late last year has killed more than 500 people, mostly women and children, and displaced close to one million people, generating one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters in modern history.
Briggs and Hersh urged humanitarian agencies working in the DRC to improve aid coordination, and ensure that assistance is based on vulnerability rather than status.
Refugee International has recommended the following for a successful coordination of aid assistance:
- The Humanitarian Country Team, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, and Emergency Relief Coordinator should approve the activation of a national camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) cluster co-led by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to jointly support official camps, spontaneous sites, and host families.
- UNHCR, IOM, and the Congolese government should finalise criteria on the requirements for classification as an official camp, and should conduct a reassessment of current classifications of camps and spontaneous sites.
- Camp coordinators should establish a more sustained presence in Masisi territory and remote areas by opening joint offices and working with donors to fund appropriate numbers of camp management staff.
- The US, UK, and EU should work to reduce displaced women and girls’ exposure to gender-based violence (GBV) by improving basic service delivery through funding the North Kivu Response Plan.
- Donors should also support programs that distribute cooking fuel and provide lifesaving GBV services in or near all camps and sites.
- The US and European donors should strengthen assistance to internally displaced persons in the DRC. In particular, donors should increase funding for UNHCR’s and IOM’s camp coordination roles.
*Photo: Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at Gihinga camp. Credit: UNHCR / A. Kirchhof