March 7, 2003, Baltimore, MD - Catholic
Relief Services (CRS) today announced plans to assist more than 30,000
people displaced by fighting in the Lomami River Valley in central Democratic
Republic of the Congo. The area has been cut off from the capital, Kinshasa,
since the war began in 1998.
"Many people fled with only the clothes on their backs," said Kevin Hartigan, CRS' Regional Director for Central Africa. "We are working to get relief supplies to those who have been displaced. At the same time, we're also looking to the longer term effect of this situation and are providing tools, seeds and other staples people will need to begin their lives again."
CRS and local partners from the Diocese of Tshumbe will distribute cooking utensils, clothing, agricultural tools and seed, fishing lines and hooks, mosquito nets and soap to those affected. Additionally, displaced families will receive medical consultations and basic medicines. CRS is the only international nongovernmental organization working in the area.
Since last April, sporadic fighting between the Mai Mai and the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie-Goma has created instability in the area. As attacks have continued and increased in intensity, villagers have been caught in the middle, with both groups accusing them of collaborating with the other. Those who have been displaced report looted and burned villages, destroyed crops and a host of human rights abuses, including rape, torture and targeted executions.
Now in its fifth year, the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been called "Africa's first World War." At least seven African countries and three rebel groups have been involved, and more than 50 million innocent lives have been disrupted and jeopardized.
CRS has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since its independence from Belgium in 1960. Program areas include emergency relief, food security, community health and peace and reconciliation work.
Catholic Relief Services is marking its 60th year as the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency provides assistance to people in 90 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.
Kevin Hartigan (Democratic Republic of