Inter-Agency standing committee appeals to parties in Zaire
New York, 4 April (Department of Humanitarian Affairs ) - Following is a statement on eastern Zaire issued today by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which is chaired by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordination and comprises United Nations Agency Heads of the world Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as well as representatives of the International Organization for Migration, Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, InterAction, and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is gravely concerned about the state of the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable refugees and innocent civilians who are victims of the fighting and are scattered throughout eastern and southern Zaire, and in particular about the plight of the tens of thousands of Rwandan and Burundian refugees who are being shuffled between Ubundu and Kisangani. Almost all of them are in appalling physical conditions and many -- the majority being women and children -- are dying of disease, malnutrition and neglect. This situation can be alleviated and deaths avoided if the United Nations agencies and international humanitarian organizations are allowed immediate and continued access to all refugees.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee calls for all parties, particularly the authorities of the Zairean government and the leadership of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), to observe humanitarian principles, which are currently being sacrificed to political machinations. This must stop. All concerned, especially the parties to the conflict are urged to seize the opportunity of the ongoing meetings in South Africa to work with the joint United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region to ensure that relief workers are allowed access in order to fully provide life saving assistance to refugees in Zaire. The Inter-Agency Committee remains convinced that the repatriation plan endorsed by the humanitarian community in Zaire and presented to the appropriate authorities rightly identifies Kisangani as the most practical, safest and quickest route through which refugees should return to their original homes.
It is vital that discussions in South Africa provide firm commitments by all concerned so that assistance could reach the refugees and arrangements be made for their safe repatriation.
[Transcribed by UN DHA IRIN Nairobi.]
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