DR Congo

Thousands in Eastern DR Congo receive emergency aid, but many others yet to be helped

News and Press Release
Originally published
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By Joe DeCapua

Washington, 12 November 2008 - The UN refugee agency is getting ready for a major distribution of emergency aid to the many thousands of displaced people in the eastern DRC. But there are still some areas that aid agencies are unable to reach because of insecurity.

David Nthengwe, UNHCR spokesperson in Goma, in the eastern DRC, spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about relief operations by UNHCR and other relief agencies.

"The overall situation now is that we've been able to bring in supplies of non-food items.... Food has already been distributed and continues (to be distributed) into tomorrow. But these non-food items have also been distributed, some of them. And many more will be distributed after the food distribution tomorrow. We don't want to cause a clash between two different distributions of food and non-food items. We have separated them," he says.

Nthengwe says that supplies being sent to camps where most of the displaced are located include blankets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and kitchen sets. "Kibati is the most urgent one as of now, and Mugunga One, Mugunga Two and Bulango and Buhimba. These activities will be coordinated between UNHCR and other agencies here in Goma," he says.

Aid agencies are having a hard time learning the number and status of displaced people in Rutshuru and Kanyabayonga, north of Goma, where much of the recent fighting has taken place, but the number is believed to be high.

"What has happened is that after the fall of Rutshuru to the rebel group CNDP, the security situation never got better. And it has been very difficult for aid agencies to access these areas," he says. Over the weekend, government troops, who fled from rebels, were blamed for widespread looting, destruction and violence in Kanyabayonga.

The UNHCR spokesperson fears the displaced are facing very harsh conditions. "One can imagine that these people have been displaced from their homes. These people have been displaced from IDP (internally displaced persons) sites... And they left these secure places and have fled into more insecure places, where they cannot access food, where they don't have blankets. they don't have sleeping mats, they don't have shelter. And where they have nothing to drink. Now, one can just imagine the situation has been catastrophic, has been extremely difficult for them - women and children and the elderly people, people with disabilities," he says.

Meanwhile in Goma, the heart of many of the aid operations in the eastern DRC, the situation is reported relatively calm.