November 20, 2012—International Medical Corps has evacuated staff from Goma, DRC amid some of the heaviest fighting in the area since 2008. The rebel group March 23 Movement (M23) seized control of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province and home to one million people, after issuing a 24-hour ultimatum for direct negotiations that the government rejected. Civilians fled the city center on Monday as heavy explosions pounded the area. This follows violence between rebel forces and government troops last week, with both sides claiming heavy losses.
The tensions in Goma exacerbate an already volatile and unpredictable security situation in North and South Kivu and put over 700,000 civilians at risk. 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. M23’s advancement to Goma has caused more than 20,000 people in surrounding areas to flee their homes, adding to the 1.6 million people already displaced in the Kivus. At least 60,000 refugees previously hosted in Kanyaruchinya camp north of Goma have also been forced to flee. Further, the conflict between FARDC and M23 threatens South Kivu, where fighting between armed groups has caused an unknown number of casualties and 30,000 people to flee since mid-October.
Humanitarian access in Goma is severely restricted. International Medical Corps’ global security team is monitoring the situation closely and ensuring the utmost safety of its staff. With Congolese civilians highly exposed to violence, hunger and disease, International Medical Corps hopes for a swift resumption of our operations in Goma so that we can provide critically needed relief to vulnerable populations.
International Medical Corps began working in DRC in 1999 and has since served approximately two million people, 80 percent of them displaced by the war. Today, International Medical Corps provides health care, nutrition, food security, sexual violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services in some of DRC’s most remote and volatile areas, often where the presence of other international organizations is extremely limited or non-existent.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.