Written by Rob MacGillivray, Save the Children Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo
It didn’t take us by surprise when we got the first reports of the fighting around Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.
This region is extremely volatile – there are a range of armed groups in the area and over the years tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.
Since 1998 war, hunger and disease have killed more than five million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Our teams have been on the ground since 1994, providing children with psycho-social support, access to healthcare and education, and delivering nutrition programmes to tackle the high levels of malnutrition.
There’s no doubt that it’s an extremely challenging context and as Country Director, I’m ultimately responsible for the team and our work.
Since the violence in the east of the country reignited a few days ago, it has been non-stop. The security situation in the east of the DRC is becoming more and more tense by the hour.
Families are fleeing for their lives – we constantly receive updated reports of the locations and numbers of displaced people, many don’t know where is safe anymore.
At the moment, it’s extremely chaotic. Some families have been displaced more than once and we can only imagine how confused and frightened children caught up in this violence are. Many may have witnessed terrible things, and will be struggling to cope.
One issue at the forefront of my mind is child recruitment. Sadly it’s rife in this area – armed groups have a history of recruiting children to their ranks.
With children fleeing amid the chaos and violence, there’s a high risk of them becoming separated from their parents – throwing them in the path of armed groups.
Once recruited, children may be exposed to abuse and exploitation and often have no access to school or healthcare.
Girls forcibly recruited into armed groups often endure sexual abuse at the hand of their captors.
Working around the clock
We’re always on stand-by for further conflict and displacement. Our team are working around the clock to prepare a response, whilst ensuring the safety of our staff.
Delivering household items to families who may have fled with nothing but the clothes on their back will be a priority, as well as supporting emergency healthcare and providing safe areas for children who have been caught up in this horrendous violence.
However, we need your help. After years of upheaval and displacement, the resilience of the people in this region is incredible, but it’s clear that additional urgent support is needed.