DR Congo

DR Congo: Emergency work is paralyzed

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GOMA, NORTH KIVU, DRC, 30 October 2008 -- Looted shops and dead bodies on the pavements is what aid workers in Goma, North Kivu province found this morning. "It has been a night of horror, but Goma is quiet now," says aid workers from ACT International. Thousands have sought refuge as the rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda has moved towards the city.

Emergency work is paralyzed after aid workers themselves have been withdrawn from the field for security reasons. According to the ACT representative in Kisangani, Emile Mpanya the UN security service has asked the emergency agencies to withdraw international staff from the area. Mpanya has spoken to his emergency staff in Goma.

According to eyewitnesses Mpanya has spoken to, armed groups shot and looted the civilians during the night. Many shops have been pillaged and houses broken into. A whole family of nine, including a breastfeeding baby, was killed in the Katindo area. Several corpses were found in the morning in the streets.

Since yesterday afternoon, aid workers have been asked by the UN to regroup at assembly points, designated by the MONUC, for possible evacuation.

The population in Goma is confused. They can hardly find out who is in charge in town and what soldiers they see walking in the streets. Thousands have fled to Goma in panic. Others are on the run out of town, mostly families of the retreating Congolese soldiers, Mbanya says. -At the moment, it is not possible to evaluate the scale of the disaster created by this situation.

Emile Mpanya is a representative for Lutheran World Service, one of the members of ACT International. He says that people also have moved to Lubero, 150 km North of Goma town. Many of them are wounded soldiers and civilians together with other displaced people. Yesterday, there was tension among the population following the increasing number of retreating troops and wounded soldiers in the region. All aid workers evacuated their personnel.

"It is feared that with the fall of Goma to the rebels, the retreating soldiers will commit brutalities on the population," says Mpanya. Most of the displaced people are the families of retreating soldiers, mostly their wives.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.

Media contacts:

Tomm Kristiansen, Communications Officer, (office: +41 22 791 6039 / mobile: +41 79 358 3171 / tkr@act-intl.org)

Sidney Traynham, Assistant Communications Officer, (office: +41 22 791 6711 / mobile: +41 79 681 1868 / sjt@act-intl.org)