Read caption “We fled running, without taking as much as a piece of clothing from the house,” a mother of eight told NRC during a recent visit to one of the many displacement sites in Ituri province. Photo: NRC/Dieudonné Mugaruka

Fear for safety for people in Ituri affected by armed groups attacks and intercommunal violence

Published 27. Feb 2020
Fighting between military actors and armed groups has this month spread from North Kivu to the Ituri province. It comes on top of cycles of intercommunal violence that has forced more than 100,000 people to flee since the beginning of the year and led to massive humanitarian needs in the province.

The humanitarian situation for newly displaced people across the Ituri province has rapidly deteriorated in recent months. In some of the villages, displaced people make up more than half of the population, according to local authorities. Many move from host villages to displacement sites because host communities cannot support additional families in their homes due to extremely scarce resources.

In displacement sites many have collected palm branches to use for shelter. Recently, there have been numerous reports of children dying from illnesses and malnutrition in displacement sites, as well as continued threats to safety and security for displaced people.

“It is key to invest in a sustained humanitarian presence, allowing organisations to stay even when there is no active conflict because unfortunately, experience teaches us that violence will burst again,” said Maureen Philippon, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

“The mounting needs and a lack of funding for humanitarian assistance means that we often have to close down an office in one location to be able to respond in another,” she added. The ongoing conflict in Ituri is unfolding in one of the most volatile regions of DR Congo.

Years of unresolved conflict over land and resources, as well as a lack of solutions to historic grievances, has led to extreme level of violence, human rights abuses and possible war crimes according to an investigation by UN Human Rights in 2019.

“My husband was killed while working in the fields, and six months later the same people attacked our village, burning our homes, looted whatever they came across and killed a number of people. We fled running, without taking as much as a piece of clothing from the house,” a mother-of-eight told NRC staff during a recent visit.

Villages are burnt to the ground, people flee, they lose their livelihoods and their living conditions are extremely precarious. The fundamental fight for land and resources is at the core of the violence in DR Congo and sadly, triggers a cycle of abuses, displacement, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, and school dropouts.

45 attacks on schools and hospitals have affected 10,743 children since early January. NRC teams on the ground have reported that desks and benches in damaged schools are used as firewood for people desperate to cook and warm up at night. 34 per cent of the population in Ituri now depends on humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

“There won’t be any end in sight until the international community places resolution of land issues and community tension on top of their agendas,” Philippon said.

Facts and figures:

  • More than 500,000 people are currently displaced across Ituri, while tens of thousands more have taken refuge in neighbouring Uganda
  • The province is also struck by Ebola and has recorded at least 500 confirmed cases of whom around 200 have died.
  • In total, more than five million people remain displaced in the DRC, representing Africa’s largest internal displacement situation.
  • 15 million people are severely food insecure in DRC (IPC phase 3 or above), according to the latest report from The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

Sources: UN, IPC and CMRE