Situated 45 kilometers northeast of Bunia, a hilltop camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is housing tens of thousands of displaced asylum-seekers. The remote camp, known as “Rhoe Camp,” primarily consists of displaced families seeking to find shelter and safety amid armed attacks in the DRC. Yet, instead of receiving protection, people at the camp face increased violence. Furthermore, they also lack access to basic necessities which negatively impacts their overall well-being. To better understand this crisis, here are five facts about the DRC’s Rhoe Camp.
5 Facts About the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Rhoe Camp
- Influx of new arrivals: According to UNICEF, Rhoe Camp housed up to 75,000 displaced people in late 2021, with 50,000 people arriving in the first two weeks of December. This has posed a major problem, as the camp’s limited space cannot support an exponential increase in new arrivals. Thousands of individuals are forced to sleep in the open, where they are vulnerable to armed violence. Individuals that manage to find shelter in Rhoe Camp do not face better conditions since shelters are cramped with people and are not rain-proof.
- Lack of basic necessities: In light of the massive influx of new arrivals, the Rhoe Camp’s food supplies have not been able to support the growing population of the camp. Moreover, individuals are also prevented from searching for food beyond the camp’s borders due to violent militants. Thus, malnutrition and starvation are pervasive issues targeting displaced households, impacting children and pregnant women the most. In addition to food insecurity, the Rhoe Camp is suffering from a lack of sanitation measures that have facilitated the spreading of diseases. In the camp, there are around 1,300 people per toilet, and the camp’s health center receives more consultations than the staff can handle, forcing hundreds of mothers and children to rest on the floor. As such, “respiratory illnesses, diarrhea and malaria” continue to spread rapidly throughout the camp.
- Armed groups restrict humanitarian access: In 2021, armed violence in the eastern provinces of the DRC resulted in more than 2.7 million internal displacements. As violence runs rampant in the DRC, armed groups surrounding Rhoe Camp have made humanitarian efforts by land impossible. Not only do militants target hospitals and schools, but they also shoot aid workers attempting to provide medicine and other provisions to the camp. U.N. workers and other NGOs are thus forced to deliver supplies through the air, which is a more tedious and expensive process.
- Children are subjected to inhumane violations: While all displaced people in Rhoe Camp are subjected to cruel conditions, children, particularly young girls, face the brunt of the crisis. According to UNICEF, 36,000 children live in Rhoe Camp, facing issues such as kidnapping, rape and the threat of murder on a daily basis. Children are frequently sexually exploited when venturing for drinking water and food in the camp.
- UNICEF is providing support: In light of the adversities in the DRC’s Rhoe Camp, UNICEF has partnered with multiple organizations to provide aid. UNICEF has created child-friendly safe spaces, led more than 1,150 medical visits and formed an education program seeking to assist displaced people in the camp. Furthermore, UNICEF’s Rapid Response Program has distributed more than 5,000 kits—containing soap, blankets and more—to the remote camp. Other organizations have also made crucial contributions to Rhoe Camp, such as Doctors Without Borders, which has created clinics and conducted more than 800 weekly consultations in the camp.
Although the DRC’s Rhoe Camp is still undergoing extensive humanitarian problems, the camp is making steady improvements due to international efforts. The U.N. and other global organizations are teaming up to distribute critical resources to the impoverished, alleviating the adversities faced by its inhabitants little by little.
– Emma He