For Immediate Release
UN Action Needed to Help Thousands in DRC Stranded Without Assistance
LONDON - On the day the UN’s head of emergency response, Valerie Amos, visits the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Oxfam urges the United Nations not to fail communities cut off from much-needed assistance. The UN must plan for funding that reflects the level of need on the ground and better protect communities from attack, says the international agency.
Tens of thousands of people are stranded without help in the east of the country either because of insecurity or because of international funding shortfalls.
“Getting essential relief to people who have fled their homes or suffered brutal violence is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous”, said Marcel Stoessel Head of Oxfam in DRC. “Without the funding and relative security, it is very difficult for us to reach those most in need.”
In the far north-eastern region of DRC, where the most brutal and longest-running rebel group in Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), continues to terrorise communities, insecurity is hampering the delivery of desperately-needed relief. Other parts of the east are feeling the effects of last year’s funding gap and agencies are concerned that a drop in this year’s UN-led annual funding request will mean many more go without assistance in 2011.
The first two months of this year have seen a spike in violence and displacement in DRC. The LRA has continued to attack poor and remote communities on almost a daily basis, with more than 50 attacks in just over 60 days. In January alone the predatory rebel group launched more attacks, abducted more children and killed more innocent civilians than over the whole of the preceding three months.
In Dakwa, Bas-Uélé, humanitarian agencies have been unable to reach more than 13,000 people who have fled LRA attacks for a year now as a result of ongoing insecurity. Formal requests from the humanitarian community for a deployment of UN peacekeepers to help secure access were first made over six months ago but still those people live without protection or aid. Projected budget cuts and a reduction in the number of transport helicopters within the UN mission is only going to make these problems worse.
Further south, in South Kivu more than 200 people sought post-rape medical care over the space of a few weeks in January and February alone. But insecurity in the province has affected the aid response with attacks against aid workers increasing by more than 100% since 2009.
Across the whole of the east where instability continues to cause huge suffering, more than 1.7 million people remain unable to return home, largely because it is unsafe to do so. Yet the 2011 Humanitarian Action Plan budget – the UN-led annual funding request to donors – saw a 13% decrease against 2010, and a 24% drop from 2009, while levels of displacement, violence against civilians and humanitarian need remain substantially the same.
"The humanitarian and peacekeeping responses simply do not match the huge levels of need on the ground,” said Stoessel. “We are failing the ordinary women, children, and men of eastern DRC. It is unacceptable that we leave people cut off from vital aid because of a shortage of security and funding."
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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.