DR Congo + 1 more

Congo crisis: ADRA readies response for the displaced

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Silver Spring, Maryland -- In response to the outbreak of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is preparing an emergency response plan to provide relief to tens of thousands of displaced persons who fled their homes near Goma along the border between Congo and Rwanda.

The recent surge in violence between government and rebel troops has caused food in Goma to become scarce, resulting in a severe spike of food prices, leaving thousands without access to nourishment. ADRA is mounting an emergency response to provide food, blankets, and other essential items to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.

"Food prices have soared more than 50 percent in Goma and food is barely available for purchase," said Romain Kenfack, country director for the ADRA DRC East office in Goma.

Widespread security concerns continue to be a problem for aid workers, limiting access to supplies and assistance. "The situation is very tense," said Kenfack. "People are still very much afraid." According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the fate of at least 50,000 people remains uncertain as several IDP camps near the town of Rutshuru, some 56 miles (90 km) north of Goma, have been reportedly looted and burned.

Since Tuesday, November 4, new fighting has broken out between the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), Congolese Tutsi rebels led by General Laurent Nkunda, and the local pro-government Mai-Mai militia. The rebels report that Rwanda Hutu Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, and government forces have fought along with the Mai-Mai at Kiwanja, near Rutshuru, but were pushed back.

A peace deal was signed between the Congolese government and various rebel groups in January, but General Nkunda has refused to disarm, in an apparent attempt to protect his fellow Tutsis from attacks by Rwandan Hutus believed to be responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

On October 24, days after a shaky, week-old cease-fire negotiated by the United Nations disintegrated, Congolese rebels launched a new offensive in the North Kivu province. Since then, an estimated 100,000 people have been uprooted from their homes.

This weekend, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will meet with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, while attending the emergency summit that will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in order to find a solution to the conflict. This summit is hosted by the African Union, and will also be attended by the leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, and Burundi. The DR Congo crisis will also be addressed at the 15-nation Southern African Development Community summit held in Johannesburg this same weekend.

Due to the escalating violence, the ADRA office in Goma was closed on October 28, when rebel soldiers advanced to within six miles (10 km) of the city. Field offices in Bunia, Bukavu, Uvira, and Baraka, however, remain operational, as they are located in more secure areas. An estimated 95 percent of ADRA's projects in the region are carried out in field offices, said Kenfack. ADRA's work in the Goma region has primarily focused on helping IDPs and returnees with rehabilitation and resettlement, providing them with the means to begin again.

Over the last two months, approximately 250,000 have been displaced, totaling nearly one million IDPs in Congo, or 20 per cent of the population of the entire North Kivu province, according to the United Nations. Of that number, many are currently displaced in and around Goma.

Since 1996, more than 4 million people are believed to have died in the Congolese conflict, according to UN estimates, mostly due to preventable diseases and starvation.

At present, the greatest needs are for food, water, health kits, shelter and blankets.

To assist in ADRA's emergency response to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, contributions can be donated to ADRA's Refugee and Displaced Persons Fund, by phone at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or online at www.adra.org.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at www.adra.org.

Author: Nadia McGill

Media Contact:
John Torres
Senior Public Relations Manager
ADRA International
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Phone: 301.680.6357
E-mail: Media.Inquiries@adra.org