DR Congo

Eastern DR Congo: ACT members deliver initial assistance

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GENEVA, 3 November 2008 -- Despite the lack of humanitarian access, several ACT members have been able to deliver some initial assistance to communities displaced by the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

ACT members distributed a 14-day food ration and non-food items to 150 households in the Sasha IDP camp last week, and a stock of medicines were delivered to a health centre in the Minova area. Additionally, a therapeutic feeding centre has continued to assist 90 children throughout the fighting.

Increasing need

Internally displaced persons have spent their nights on bare ground and under the open sky for the past week without food, shelter, medical and material assistance. Now in the height of the rainy season, the risk of disease is increased and combined with a hunger crisis that is threatening the displaced populations. In addition, vulnerable families are at even greater risk as many local health centers have been looted.

A fragile cease-fire is now in place after full-fledged fighting broke out in Masisi between government forces and Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) on 28 August. There were reports of looting, killing and raping of civilians in the town of Goma as uncontrolled elements of armed groups fled from the battlefront.

The Geneva office of the UN World Food Programme reports that between 1.4 million and 2 million people are displaced in North Kivu, which includes those uprooted from earlier waves of fighting since 2007. An estimated 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting intensified in August. In addition to those displaced within the national borders, thousands have reportedly fled to other countries including Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Aid corridor opened

The ACT members in eastern DRC met on 3 November as soon as the town of Goma was declared safe, and negotiations by the UN for humanitarian access to the affected areas were underway.

ACT members are departing tomorrow on four simultaneous two-day assessment missions. In addition to the immediate need for food, water and shelter, particular attention will be paid to needs for psychosocial and protection support within affected populations. Based on the findings of the assessment missions, a preliminary ACT appeal will be drafted by 10 November.