Desperation Grows: Eastern Congo Residents Seek Safety and Food Amid Escalating Conflict

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The deepening conflict between the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s (DRC) army and the Tutsi-led M23 rebels, allegedly supported by Rwanda, has disrupted food supplies to the eastern city of Goma, affecting over two million residents and displaced individuals. The clashes, intensifying since the beginning of the year in towns and villages around the provincial capital, have resulted in rebel advancements, pushing thousands to seek refuge in Goma.

The use of heavy artillery and shelling in the conflict has claimed dozens of lives, overwhelming hospitals in Goma as they struggle to cope with the influx of injured civilians. Humanitarian concerns have been raised by the United Nations and other aid agencies, warning that the fighting could exacerbate the existing crisis in eastern Congo, where over 5 million people have been displaced across four provinces due to ongoing conflicts.

Accusations have been directed at Rwanda by the Congolese government, United Nations officials, and Western powers, alleging support for the M23 rebels. The rebels claim to defend ethnic Tutsi interests against Hutu militias associated with the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda vehemently denies these allegations.

In response to the escalating situation, the United States has called on Rwanda to withdraw all military personnel from Congo and remove surface-to-air missile systems, citing threats to the lives of civilians, UN and regional peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, and commercial flights in eastern Congo.

As the rebels advance toward the town of Sake, approximately 25 km west of Goma, the city is now dependent on limited food supplies brought in by canoes from villages around Lake Kivu. The Kituku market, situated on the lake’s banks, has become a crucial source of food for Goma. Concerns are growing over potential food shortages, with warnings of an impending famine if the conflict persists and supply routes from surrounding farmlands remain cut off.

The situation has prompted a significant displacement of people, with approximately 135,000 internally displaced individuals fleeing Sake in the past week, joining the already substantial number of displaced individuals around Goma since the onset of 2022 due to the persistent conflict.

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