International Medical Corps has evacuated staff to safety from Goma, DRC amid heavy fighting and is mobilizing an emergency response to address urgent humanitarian needs. The rebel group March 23 Movement (M23) has seized control of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province and home to one million people, following heavy fighting with government forces. M23 declared its aim to march across DRC to capture the capital, Kinshasa.
Over 700,000 civilians are at risk from the violence, which has uprooted 140,000 people in eastern DRC since November 15, adding to the 1.6 million people already displaced in North and South Kivu. The displaced are currently staying in three camps and a number of schools in Goma. The humanitarian crisis threatens to spill over into South Kivu by pushing an estimated 50,000 internally displaced people towards Minova. Further, tens of thousands of children are at risk of recruitment by armed groups, rape, hunger and cholera.
International Medical Corps anticipates shortages of essential medicines, medical supplies and fuel. Meanwhile, overcrowding combined with a rainy season threaten to increase the risk of diarrheal diseases. Rapid population movements are anticipated to accelerate the spread cholera, which was breaking out in Kanyaruchinya camp before refugees were forced to flee. Four cases have been reported in Don Bosco, where 8,000 people have found refuge.
The tensions in Goma exacerbate an already volatile and unpredictable security situation in North and South Kivu. Defections in early April within the poorly integrated Congolese army, or FARDC, led to attacks and counterattacks in recent months that left hundreds of innocent people dead and thousands displaced. In South Kivu, fighting between armed groups has caused an unknown number of casualties and 30,000 people to flee since mid-October.
International Medical Corps is active in DRC and engaging with humanitarian partners on the ground. We will be providing urgent drugs and medical supplies for Heal Africa’s hospital in Goma. International Medical Corps’ global security team is monitoring the situation closely and ensuring the utmost safety of our staff. With Congolese civilians highly exposed to violence, hunger and disease, International Medical Corps hopes for a swift cessation of violence so that we can provide critically-needed relief to vulnerable populations.