SITUATION AT A GLANCE
19.6 MILLION: Estimated Population in Need of Assistance
UN – January 2021
27.3 MILLION: Estimated Acutely Food Insecure Population
IPC – March 2021
5 MILLION: Estimated Number of IDPs in the DRC
UN – April 2021
942,000: Estimated Number of Congolese Refugees Sheltering Abroad
UNHCR – May 2021
536,000: Estimated Number of Refugees Sheltering in the DRC
UNHCR – May 2021
On May 22, Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu Province, resulting in the temporary displacement of more than 415,000 people and the destruction of homes and infrastructure. In response to resulting humanitarian needs, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in the DRC Marion Ekpuk declared a disaster and the USG provided relief to affected populations.
Attacks by armed groups in Ituri Province in late May and early June resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, population displacement, and the destruction of infrastructure. Due to ongoing insecurity, many humanitarian actors have temporarily suspended operations in the conflict-affected areas.
USG Responds to Volcano-Related Humanitarian Needs in Goma
On May 22, Mount Nyiragongo—located approximately 10 miles north of North Kivu’s Goma city— erupted, resulting in the deaths of more than 30 people, the destruction of houses, and the disruption of water infrastructure serving half a million people in and around Goma, according to the UN. As of June 1, the eruption had displaced more than 415,000 people, including approximately 232,000 people evacuated from 10 of Goma’s 18 neighborhoods by the Government of the DRC (GoDRC) due to the risk of additional eruptions and safety hazards posed by the emission of toxic volcanic gases, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports.
In response to needs resulting from the volcanic eruption, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in the DRC Marion Ekpuk issued a disaster declaration on May 25, enabling USAID/BHA to provide $500,000 to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to conduct cholera prevention activities and deliver water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance to evacuees and households in Goma who had lost access to water. In addition, State/PRM partner the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continues to provide psychosocial support to populations impacted by the eruption, reaching more than 7,600 vulnerable people with relief commodities, as of late June.
While the majority of evacuees had returned to Goma since local government officials authorized returns on June 7, as of late June, more than 21,000 people remain displaced across 13 sites in Goma and North Kivu’s Nyiragongo Territory and required continued humanitarian assistance. On June 23, USAID/BHA staff conducted a monitoring visit to two collective sites in Goma, finding that current levels of assistance were inadequate to meet the needs of the increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the sites, underscoring the need for a scale-up in humanitarian assistance, particularly shelter and WASH support. Relief actors anticipate the number of people sheltering at the sites to increase in the coming weeks as displaced populations continue to return to Goma from elsewhere in the DRC and neighboring areas of Rwanda.
Heightened Food Insecurity Affects Populations in Beni and Goma
The Mount Nyiragongo volcano eruption, growing insecurity, and poor economic conditions have driven heightened levels of acute food insecurity in Goma and portions of North Kivu’s Beni Territory in recent weeks, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reports. In late May, the evacuations in Goma reduced the ability of poor households engaged in informal sector labor to earn income and purchase food and other essential commodities. In addition, as of late April, needs for emergency food assistance were heightened in Beni, as an increase in organized armed group (OAG) attacks targeting civilians and weeks of protests against the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) had reduced the availability of staple foods at local markets. Overall, FEWS NET anticipates that some households in Beni and Goma will likely continue to face Crisis—IPC 3—levels of acute food insecurity through September.
Armed Group Attacks in Ituri Exacerbate Humanitarian Needs
Escalating armed group attacks—including those perpetrated by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements—continue to target civilian populations in Ituri’s Irumu Territory, undermining security and exacerbating humanitarian needs among already vulnerable populations. On May 30, suspected ADF actors attacked Irumu’s Boga and Tchabi cities, resulting in nearly 60 civilian deaths, the destruction of dwellings and public infrastructure, numerous protection violations, and the displacement of thousands of people across Ituri and North Kivu. The violence also prompted relief actors to temporarily suspend operations in the two cities, adversely affecting 40,000 IDPs and host community members reliant on humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. Armed actors carried out additional attacks in Boga on June 7 and 8 which led to at least 10 civilian deaths and culminated in the looting and destruction of a hospital providing health services to approximately 80,000 people in and around the city. In response to the attack, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator David McLachlan-Karr urged GoDRC officials to improve security conditions in the two cities and facilitate the resumption of life-saving relief operations.
In addition, armed clashes in and around Fataki town, located in Irumu’s Djugu Territory, had displaced approximately 16,000 people as of late June, according to the UN. An estimated 10,000 IDPs were sheltering at a spontaneous site located adjacent to a MONUSCO base near Djugu's Djaiba town, while the remainder were sheltering among the host community in nearby towns and villages. Security conditions in Fataki had improved following operations by the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) against the armed group CODECO from June 12 to 15, though armed actors looted a health center and a hospital during the clashes. Affected populations remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance amid disrupted livelihoods and elevated food, protection, and shelter needs.
Increasing Insecurity in Eastern DRC Elevates Protection Risks
Escalating insecurity in recent months across eastern DRC—particularly in Ituri and North Kivu—has exposed civilian populations to a growing number of protection risks and violations, according to relief actors. In April and May alone, the Protection Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian protection activities, comprising UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders—received reports of nearly 5,000 protection violations—including killings, abductions, looting—across Ituri’s Djugu, Irumu, Mahagi, and Mambasa territories. Similarly, ADF attacks in Ituri and North Kivu between January and May resulted in nearly 180 murders; nearly 100 cases of rape and sexual assault; nearly 80 abductions; nearly 40 incidents of looting; nearly 30 injuries; nearly 30 incidents of arson; and nearly 20 cases of forced labor. In addition, UNHCR recorded more than 100 protection incidents impacting refugees in Haute-Uélé Province’s Faradje Territory and Ituri’s Aru Territory during May, a 65 percent increase compared to the previous month. Relief actors also note that heightened insecurity in late 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 led to an increase in the number of displaced children, many of whom are either orphaned or separated from their families and highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. On May 3, in response to ongoing insecurity in eastern DRC, the GoDRC imposed a “state of siege” in North Kivu and Ituri, replacing civilian administration with military authorities and establishing martial law. The GoDRC extended the “state of siege,” originally due to conclude in early June, according to international media. Relief actors have called for assurances that the “state of siege” would not undermine human rights in eastern DRC.
Returnees in Kasaï Face elevated Humanitarian Needs
Elevated levels of humanitarian need persist among tens of thousands of people who have returned to their communities of origin in Kasaï Province in recent months following their displacement by intercommunal conflict in 2020 and early 2021, the UN reports. As of early June, approximately 23,700 people displaced by intercommunal conflict in 2020 had returned to Kasaï’s Kakenge health zone in Mweka Territory in part due to difficult living conditions with host communities and limited assistance in areas of displacement. Many returnees continue to face limited access to assistance following their return to Kakenge. In addition, relief actors had been unable to deliver assistance to approximately 21,000 returnees and IDPs in Mweka’s Batua Kadimba health zone since November 2020 due to insufficient financial resources. The Protection Cluster warns that failure to provide adequate levels of assistance in Mweka could increase the risk of additional conflict around scarce resources such as food .