Democratic Republic of Congo: despite ongoing insecurity, JRS teams return to Goma and re-establish activities in Masisi
23 November 2012

Goma, 23 November 2012 – Only three days after the fall of Goma, the North Kivu capital, and the armed advance of the rebel group March 23 Movement (M23), the Jesuit Refugee Service resumed activities for internally displaced persons (IDP) and local communities in Masisi, about 100 kilometres from the eastern Congo provincial city.

After evacuating the city for security reasons on 20 November, JRS staff also returned to Goma to assess ways of responding, in coordination with other humanitarian organisations, to the urgent needs of food and medical assistance of 140,000 IDPs currently in the area.

JRS projects resumed. In Masisi town and IDP camps in nearby Lushebere and Bukombo, JRS re-established its informal education programmes for women, girls and young men. These include literacy classes and vocational training courses, such as tailoring and hairdressing. JRS also resumed construction on a secondary school in nearby Nyabiondo.

"Despite the prevailing climate of insecurity, we have decided to continue our activities to accompany the displaced population in Masisi so as to help restore a sense of normalcy in the lives of those constantly endangered and threatened by displacement. Students are coming to our schools regularly, interested in learning, socialising with others and trying to forget about the war", said JRS Great Lakes Africa Director, Isaac Kiyaka SJ.

According to information gathered by JRS field staff, tensions remain high as the population in Masisi remains concerned about possibility of unexpected attacks by M23 rebels. A number of other rebel groups in the area have also been responsible for human rights violations during violent attacks in recent weeks, according to a JRS press statement published on 14 November. Therefore, JRS plans to evaluate the security risks for its staff and programmes on daily basis.   

Coordination with humanitarian organisations. Progress has been made by humanitarian agencies and international organisations in Goma in establishing a coordinated and effective response to the urgent needs of the women, children and men recently displaced after clashes in the city this past week. 

The provision of food assistance, medical services and resupply of looted health centres are the highest priorities indicated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). JRS is currently working alongside OCHA and other humanitarian actors in order to guarantee immediate assistance to the displaced. 

"We are evaluating the most effective means of intervention to alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of women, children and men, most of them in particularly vulnerable circumstances, who have been unable to access any kind of humanitarian assistance for days", explained Fr Kiyaka.

For security reasons, JRS formal and informal education programmes and assistance to vulnerable persons in Mweso, also in North Kivu, have been suspended until further notice.
Danilo Giannese, Advocacy and Communications Officer, Jesuit Refugee Service Great Lakes Africa

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