DR Congo

Welsh charities launch joint appeal to ease Congo humanitarian crisis

A Wales-wide appeal to raise funds to help the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been launched in Cardiff.

Launching the Disasters Emergency Committee Cymru (DEC Cymru) Congo (DR) Crisis Appeal, at St David's Hall on 20 November, DEC Cymru Chairman Richard Laydon said that while aid is getting through to those affected, a massive scale-up is required.

More than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting in recent weeks, adding to more than one million already displaced as result of the conflict.

Agencies that make up the DEC are already delivering life-saving food, water, shelter and emergency medical supplies to those affected, but the scale of the crisis means much more is needed.

"The start of the rainy season has meant people living in already desperate conditions are becoming ever more vulnerable," says Laydon.

"Our member agencies are already reaching several hundred thousand people, but the need is overwhelming and increasing. We have got to do more and now, more than ever, we need the Welsh public to show their generosity.

"Children are being separated and orphaned by this intense conflict. Thousands of people are vulnerable to rape, malnutrition, abduction and disease. We urgently need your help to bring them relief, stability and hope."

Aid workers on the ground are reporting that many people displaced for the second, third or even fourth time by conflict. Thousands of children are living in spontaneous settlement camps, where they are at increased risk of being physically and mentally abused.

World Vision estimate there are around 5,500 former child soldiers in the camps, who are vulnerable to being re-recruited by the warring militias. There are also reports of extremely high levels of rape and gender-based violence, with poor security to protect girls and women in the camps. In the town of Kanyabayonga, Oxfam reported a ten fold increase in the number of rapes reported at local hospitals and clinics between May and the beginning of November.

There is also a worryingly significant increase in child malnourishment. Before the latest upsurge in violence, nutrition experts were admitting one or two malnourished children per day at the World Vision nutrition centre in Rwanguba, east of Rutshuru. Since fighting devastated the rebel-held territory near Rutshuru, between eight and ten children have been arriving every day.