Aid Agencies Launch Joint Congo Appeal

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Aid Agencies Launch Joint Congo Appeal

by
Angela Balakrishnan

Children queue for food at an aid station for thousands of displaced Congolese in Kibati, 12km from Goma. (Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA)

Urgent aid appeals for Congo are being made today as the extent of the humanitarian crisis is revealed.

Leading
aid agencies are joining together to call on the public for cash to
help ease the plight of those affected by the recent upsurge in
violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

More
than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes because of
fighting in recent weeks, adding to more than 1 million people already
displaced.

There are reports from the country of rising cases of
malnutrition, rape and abduction. Rebels in Congo have withdrawn as
promised from some of their positions in the east to allow aid in.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched a Congo crisis appeal. Its chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said aid was getting through but the effort needed to be greatly increased.

"The
start of the rainy season has meant people living in already desperate
conditions are becoming ever more vulnerable," he said.

"We have got to do more and now, more than ever, we need the UK public to show their generosity."

Charles
Badenoch, the chief executive of DEC member agency World Vision, said:
"Children are being separated and orphaned by this intense conflict. Thousands
of people are vulnerable to rape, malnutrition, abduction and disease.
We urgently need your help to bring them relief, stability and hope."

The conflict had seen many people displaced for the second, third and even fourth time, the DEC said.

Aid
workers say thousands of children are living in spontaneous settlement
camps, where they are at increased risk of being physically and
mentally abused.

World Vision estimates there are around 5,500
former child soldiers in the camps who are vulnerable to being forced
to fight again by the militias.

Solange Nyamulisa of ActionAid
said it was helping a group of Congolese women organise a demonstration
at a refugee camp calling for protection and an end to violence against
women.

"Whilst UN
peacekeepers are authorised under their mandate to use force to protect
civilians, they need to be seen to be doing so, particularly around the
protection of women and children," Nyamulisa said.

"UN mission
forces should be providing 24-hour security at all refugee camps with
enough troops deployed in enough strength to serve as deterrents."

Witnesses say the rebels, led by Laurent Nkunda, have moved back 25 miles (40km) on two fronts north of Goma.

The withdrawal comes after several weeks of fighting and talks last weekend with the UN envoy Olusegun Obasanjo.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, welcomed the rebel retreat and the opening of aid corridors.

In a statement, he called on all sides to observe the cessation of hostilities.

Donations can be made by visiting dec.org.uk or calling the DEC on 0370 60 60 90, or at banks and post offices.

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