DR Congo

ActionAid calls for greater protection of civilians in Congo

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As thousands of refugees in eastern Congo go without food and shelter for yet another day, international development agency ActionAid urges the UN Security Council to strengthen its mandate to enforce peace in the region.

"The humanitarian situation here is completely out of control," said Alpha Sankoh, ActionAid's country director in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Refugees are being deliberately targeted before our very eyes - we cannot allow this to continue," he added.

"The protection of women and children is paramount, particularly as so many are on the move seeking safety. And to ensure this happens, the role of the UN peace keeping forces needs to be reviewed."

Intense diplomatic pressure has resulted in the leaders of Congo and Rwanda agreeing to an emergency summit with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner joining a trail of envoys descending on the region.

The breakthrough came as a result of intense diplomatic pressure amid warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe as tens of thousands fled fighting, looting and rape by armed groups.

Alpha Sankoh said it was essential that Miliband and Kouchner use their influence to press all parties to enter into negotiations to work towards an internationally enforced ceasefire.

"They must do everything in their power to ensure UN peacekeeping forces protect civilians and guarantee safe passage for humanitarian workers," he added.

ActionAid hopes to resume relief efforts to refugees in camps in the conflict area as soon as the security situation allows.

ENDS

For further information contact Anjali Kwatra on 07941 371357.

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in over 40 countries taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together