DR Congo

Aid agencies launch joint appeal to ease Congo humanitarian crisis

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Leading UK aid agencies are today (Thursday, November 20) appealing to the public for urgently needed funds to help ease the increasingly desperate plight of people affected by the recent upsurge of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Launching the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Congo (DR) Crisis Appeal, chief executive Brendan Gormley said while aid was getting through to those affected, a massive scale-up was required.

More than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting in recent weeks, adding to more than one million already displaced as result of the conflict.

Agencies that make up the DEC are already delivering life-saving food, water, shelter and emergency medical supplies to those affected, but the scale of the crisis means much more is needed.

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

"Our member agencies are already reaching several hundred thousand people, but the need is overwhelming and increasing. We have got to do more and now, more than ever, we need the UK public to show their generosity."

Charles Badenoch, 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."

Aid workers on the ground are reporting:

- Many people displaced for the second, third or even fourth time by conflict.

- Thousands of children living in spontaneous settlement camps, where they are at increased risk of being physically and mentally abused.

- World Vision estimate there are around 5,500 former child soldiers in the camps, who are vulnerable to being re-recruited by the warring militias.

- Extremely high levels of rape and gender-based violence, with poor security to protect girls and women in the camps. In the town of Kanyabayonga, Oxfam reported a ten fold increase in the number of rapes reported at local hospitals and clinics between May and the beginning of November.

- A significant increase in child malnourishment. Before the latest upsurge in violence, nutrition experts were admitting one or two malnourished children per day at the World Vision nutrition centre in Rwanguba, east of Rutshuru. Since fighting devastated the rebel-held territory near Rutshuru, between eight and ten children have been arriving every day.

Notes to editors:

1. The DEC consists of: Action Aid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision.

2. How to donate

It's easy to donate. Please visit our website on www.dec.org.uk or call the DEC on 0370 60 60 900 or donate at any high street bank or post office.

We know people are facing financially difficult times but even a small donation makes a difference. Even a small donation to the appeal will help get food, water, shelter, emergency and medical supplies to people who desperately need it.

3.The DEC criteria to launch an appeal are:

The disaster must be on such a scale and of such urgency as to call for swift International humanitarian assistance.

The DEC agencies, or some of them, must be in a position to provide effective and swift humanitarian assistance at a scale to justify a national Appeal.

There must be sufficient public awareness of, and sympathy for, the humanitarian situation so as to give reasonable grounds for concluding that a public Appeal would be successful.

4. For new footage, photographs, case studies and pre-recorded or live interviews with both aid agency staff on the ground and in the UK, please contact the DEC press office on 0207 387 0200 or, out of hours, on 07930 999014.