Photo Credit: CARE DRC/Kelvin Batumike

Humanitarian crisis escalates in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo due to renewed clashes and flooding

Nairobi, Kenya,19 February – The humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached critical levels as clashes intensify, resulting in widespread displacement and escalating risks for women and children. Recent assessments show that over 200,000 individuals have been displaced from Sake and nearby settlements in North Kivu province due to recent fighting. This adds to the total of over 6 million people currently displaced in the DRC, with more than 80% attributed to conflict, primarily in the eastern region, which accounts for 97% of the total displacement. 

The situation in Eastern DRC is catastrophic, with millions of lives at risk, particularly women, girls, and children,
stated Sidibe Kadidia, Country Director at CARE DRC.

“Cases of malnutrition, diseases, and reports of violence against women and girls are steadily rising. Immediate action is required to address the urgent humanitarian needs of affected populations, including access to food, water, healthcare, and protection services,” added Sidibe. 

The crisis, exacerbated since January 2024, worsens as clashes spill into villages near the South Kivu border, prompting people to flee. The influx of displaced persons into Goma overwhelms resources, causing food prices to rise due to dwindling supplies from disrupted routes. Before the conflict over 2.8 million children across DRC were already suffering from high malnutrition rates and are now facing disruptions in education and healthcare. An estimated 1.1 million children and 605,000 women face elevated levels of acute malnutrition.  Children under the age of five and pregnant or breastfeeding women are particularly vulnerable. Moreover, the conflict has caused significant damage and resulted in civilian casualties and injuries.

Violence against women and girls skyrockets

Reports of gender-based violence (GBV) are on the rise, with the likelihood of women and girls facing further risks of sexual assault, exploitation, and abuse. With a lack of access to food, they are resorting to negative coping mechanisms such as transactional sex and begging for food which is putting them further at risk of exploitation and abuse. Since the recent escalation of violence in 2023, the number of people affected by sexual violence has been steadily increasing.

Kadula*, a 21-year-old mother who survived horrific ordeals since she fled from her home to the time she arrived at the camp in Goma, said: 

We came here on foot from Rutshuru. I was separated from one of my children while fleeing and another died after being hit by a vehicle. I was a victim of rape here in the camp when I went to fetch firewood. My husband abandoned me when he found out I’d been raped,  
shared Kadula*.

As conflict continues to intensify, the region has also been experiencing excessive rain and flooding. That has resulted in over 300 deaths and affected 1.8 million people, further compounding the vulnerabilities of the population. With limited access to water and sanitation, there were already reports of a cholera outbreak. The potential spread of cholera along the route to Goma and nearby IDP settlements is a serious concern, necessitating urgent containment measures. The influx of displaced individuals into Goma heightens the risk of a cholera outbreak due to strained sanitation facilities.

CARE's work in the DRC

CARE DRC is working alongside local partners and other humanitarian organizations to provide urgent lifesaving assistance to affected communities. However, additional funding and resources are urgently required to meet the growing needs of displaced populations and mitigate the impact of the crisis.  

“We call on the governments and international donors to prioritize the humanitarian response in Eastern DRC and provide support to organizations on the ground,” urged Sidibe Kadidia. “At the same time, we reiterate the need for a resolution of the conflict and unhindered access for humanitarian workers.

The lives of millions of vulnerable and innocent individuals hangs in the balance, and swift action is needed to prevent further suffering and loss,
concluded Sidibe Kadidia, Country Director at CARE DRC.

* Name changed to protect the respective identity.

For media inquiries, please contact Iolanda Jaquemet, Senior Humanitarian Communications Coordinator, CARE International via: [email protected]