Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Aid flights arrive in DR Congo, but insecurity persists

UNICEF Image
© Reuters/O'Reilly
A family displaced by fighting takes shelter from the rain in a makeshift tent in Kiwanja, 70 km north of Goma in eastern DR Congo. Aid flights are bringing shipments of blankets, plastic sheeting and buckets for distribution to the displaced.

NEW YORK, USA, 11 November 2008 – Insecurity persists in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 250,000 people have been forced from their homes in the last two months alone, due to fighting between the army and a rebel group.

Today, two more planeloads of emergency supplies landed in Goma to help address critical health and humanitarian needs of the displaced. A total of 10 shipments are expected over the coming days; six have landed thus far.

“These supplies will help contain the spread of cholera and diarrhoea, both extremely contagious diseases on the rise in nearly all internally displaced person settlements in North Kivu,” said UNICEF Representative in DR Congo Pierrette Vu Thi. “We are extremely thankful for these supplies and others that will arrive shortly. They are critical to help save and improve the lives of children affected in the conflict.”

The supplies were donated by the United States and United Kingdom.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF DR Congo/2008/Harneis
The first flight with aid from the United Kingdom arrives in Goma, DR Congo. Flights over the next days will bring in essential household items for 11,000 displaced families.

More fighting anticipated

In spite of multinational talks held last week and intense pressure from the international community to resume a peace process, fighting continues throughout the province.

This morning, rebel leader Laurent Nkunda renewed his vow to overthrow the government unless it agrees to bilateral negotiations – something the government continues to refuse.

Meanwhile, very few of the displaced have returned to their homes, anticipating more fighting in the coming weeks.

Humanitarian access blocked

The insecurity continues to prevent UNICEF and its partners from accessing all the displaced.

“A major concern of ours is still humanitarian access,” said UNICEF Communications Officer Jaya Murthy, in Goma. “There are a couple of areas that we have no access to at the moment, that we’re extremely concerned about. We desperately need to get in to try to mitigate any potential catastrophic situation in terms of disease outbreaks or malnutrition.”

UNICEF has run measles vaccination campaigns n North Kivu but there is still significant concern about cholera. “We’ve seen cases of cholera increase in all displacement areas,” said Mr. Murthy.

Truckloads of water

In order to address the threat of cholera,  UNICEF and its partners are trucking in safe water and increasing hygiene promotion. In the Kibati area, to which more than 30,00 people have fled, UNICEF and its partners are constructing 240 additional latrines.

“We know that there is enough clean water getting in to these displaced people, and that’s helping to contain the epidemic,” said Mr. Murthy.

Over 5 million people are thought to have died in the Congolese conflict since it began in 1996, mostly through preventable disease and starvation. UNICEF’s mission in Congo is one of its largest in the world.


 

 

Audio

11 November 2008:
UNICEF Communications Specialist Jaya Murthy, in Goma, describes the push to bring aid to over 1 million displaced people.
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