Congo Watch: DR Congo: The LRA remains a significant destabilizing presence in Orientale Province

Saturday, April 04, 2009

DR Congo: The LRA remains a significant destabilizing presence in Orientale Province

Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Date: 03 Apr 2009
DR Congo: Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #13 (FY 2009)
Note: The last fact sheet was dated March 4, 2009.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS

On March 15, Ugandan troops began withdrawing from northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), signaling the conclusion of the joint Ugandan, Sudanese, and Congolese military operation against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), according to international media reports. Launched on December 14, the operation resulted in the deaths of more than 90 LRA soldiers and the release of approximately 300 abducted civilians, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

On March 6, the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) demobilized as a result of the relative calm observed in most areas of North Kivu Province, indications of the potential for improved stability in the region, and decreased demand for immediate USAID/OFDA emergency reaction capacity in North Kivu and Orientale provinces.

CURRENT SITUATION

An improved security environment in many areas of North Kivu Province in recent weeks continues to facilitate the returns process. However, the recent increase in attacks by Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) forces attempting to reclaim lost territory and continued presence of National Congress of the Defense of the People (CNDP) elements have prevented widespread returns to other areas of North Kivu Province.

In recent weeks, OCHA has noted an increase in attacks against humanitarian organizations operating in North Kivu Province, from five reported incidents in January to 17 attacks between February 1 and March 4. The U.N. reports continuing attacks by unidentified armed individuals on non-governmental organization (NGO) vehicles using the Kichanga-Mweso road, on the border between Rutshuru and Masisi territories.

Despite ongoing access constraints, OCHA reported that approximately 80 percent of individuals displaced within North Kivu prior to 2009 remain accessible and currently receive humanitarian assistance as of March 11. In addition, the report indicated an estimated 30 percent of individuals displaced by violence in recent months currently receive humanitarian assistance. To ensure civilian protection and facilitate the delivery of emergency relief commodities, the U.N. Mission in the DRC (MONUC) has increased protection team deployments and patrols along key axes in North Kivu Province in recent weeks.

Displacement in North Kivu Province

Population movement remains fluid in eastern DRC, with humanitarian agencies indicating simultaneous returns and displacement in different areas of North Kivu Province. On February 28, OCHA released preliminary North Kivu displacement and IDP return figures compiled from NGO reports since January 1. Although OCHA continues to verify the figures, the report indicates nearly 265,000 IDPs returned to areas of origin, while violence and perceived insecurity resulted in 174,000 newly displaced individuals.

The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) noted that prevailing insecurity between March 5 and 11 had resulted in new displacement in Lubero Territory, while sporadic violence between armed groups had resulted in limited population movement in Masisi and Walikale territories.

According to OCHA, IDPs continue to return from spontaneous sites more frequently than from official Goma-area IDP camps. However, on March 4, OCHA reported that approximately 1,400 individuals had departed from Kibati I and Kibati II camps for areas of origin in southern Rutshuru Territory in recent weeks. According to UNHCR, the returns process has resulted in the resumption of agricultural activities in areas of origin.

In FY 2009, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $1.7 million to German Agro Action (GAA) for economy and market systems and agriculture and food security activities, as well as the provision of relief supplies and logistical support for more than 100,000 beneficiaries in North Kivu Province.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Reported cholera cases continue to decline in North Kivu Province as a result of enhanced water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions. During the week of March 1, UNICEF reported 90 new cholera cases, a significant decline from 616 registered cases during the week of November 23.

In FY 2009, USAID/OFDA has provided nearly $1.8 million to Merlin for the provision of emergency health assistance, including WASH interventions, to more than 500,000 beneficiaries in eastern DRC.

Humanitarian Conditions in Orientale Province

The LRA remains a significant destabilizing presence in Orientale Province, despite recent joint Congolese, Ugandan, and Sudanese military operations. According to UNHCR, intensified LRA attacks since late February have resulted in new displacement, hindered assessment and registration activities, and impeded the delivery of emergency relief commodities.

According to Caritas, LRA forces abducted more than 200 people during an attack on Banda village, Ango Territory, on March 14 and 15. As of March 6, UNHCR reported that LRA attacks have resulted in the displacement of approximately 143,000 people since September 2008, including more than 43,000 IDPs in Dungu area, as well as 15,000 people displaced to Southern Sudan.

On March 4, UNICEF noted a lack of safe drinking water in Dungu resulting from increasing numbers of IDPs. In addition, UNICEF reported a critical humanitarian situation in Ngilima town caused by a lack of food, safe drinking water, and relief commodity deliveries.

On March 11, UNICEF reported the establishment of an air bridge between Bunia and Doruma towns due to overland access constraints. In the coming weeks, the airlift is scheduled to deliver 25 tons of emergency relief commodities to more than 15,000 displaced persons residing in Doruma.

In FY 2009, USAID/OFDA has provided $2 million to UNICEF's rapid response mechanism for logistical support and the provision of emergency relief commodities to conflict-affected persons, including beneficiaries in Orientale Province.

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