In Eastern DRC, Thousands Flee Renewed Violence as Key Transit Routes Become Impassable

February 13, 2024

Renewed clashes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the Congolese army and the M23, a non-state armed group, have triggered massive displacement in recent days, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation for thousands of people. Meanwhile, the main roads around Goma and Sake, routes that are crucial for the movement of civilians, goods and humanitarian aid, have become impassable due to intensified fighting, further restricting access to essential services and supplies.

Since November 2023, violent conflicts have forced over a million people to flee their homes, adding to the 2.4 million displaced people in the North Kivu region. Today, over seven million people are internally displaced in DRC due to ongoing conflict. 

Mercy Corps Country Director for the DRC, Emilie Vonck, says:

 “The surge in violence in areas surrounding Sake and Masisi threatens the lives of thousands of civilians by direct violence and blocking of critical humanitarian aid. The city of Goma, which already hosted over 500,000 internally displaced people before this latest escalation, is now facing unbearable overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure to support the more than 150,000 new arrivals with shelter and basic services. Without access to clean water, people in Goma face health and safety risks – whether due to waterborne diseases like cholera or unchecked gender-based violence for women and girls who walk long distances in search of water.

“Over the past few days, thousands of women and children who fled their homes could be seen for miles on the roads to Goma carrying babies and heavy luggage, visibly hungry and distressed, having trekked for hours. One woman who fled Sake told us she left everything she owned behind. She came with her seven children on foot, walking for seven hours. They witnessed neighbors die on the way and others injured by bombs. They sat down along the road and cried many times before finally arriving in Goma. Now, she wonders how long they can survive and what will come next.  

“Aid agencies are now grappling with daily decisions on where and when it is safe to provide assistance amid reports of aid workers getting caught in the crossfire. Once again, conflict in eastern DRC risks undoing decades of development gains, while plunging the nearly 7 million people affected by conflict into further humanitarian catastrophe.”

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  • Grace Ndungu, Africa Media & Communications Manager (based in Nairobi), at
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