DR Congo

Congo war causes overlooked humanitarian disaster

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NAIROBI, April 3 (Reuters) - War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has forced 1.3 million people from their homes and created a humanitarian disaster, a senior United Nations official said on Monday.
Ross Mountain, director of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, said 14 million Congolese out of a total population of around 48 million were short of food and health care as a result of the conflict.

The number of displaced in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu alone has doubled to around half a million this year as a result of renewed fighting.

"It is a gigantic disaster which has been taking place outside the eyes of the world," Mountain told Reuters in Nairobi shortly after visiting government and rebel-held parts of the Congo.

The main warring parties, including five foreign armies and three rebel groups, signed a ceasefire agreement and peace deal in Zambia last year but fighting has continued around the country ever since.

Mountain said international aid agencies could only reach a very limited proportion of those forced from their homes, mainly because of security concerns.

But he said he was encouraged access could be improved after receiving assurances of cooperation from the Congolese government and rebel leaders.

Mountain said malnutrition was a problem for many of the people displaced from their homes by the 20-month-long war.

Diseases like malaria and cholera were rife, while the reappearance of bubonic plague and haemorrhagic fever in the east of the country had compounded health problems.

Mountain said the United Nations had appealed to donors for $60 million to finance humanitarian efforts but added that just $20 million could make a significant difference if access to the displaced was improved.

"Resources have not been very forthcoming," he said. "It is one of those crises which has alas been somewhat overlooked."

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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