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Mia Farrow calls for humanitarian access and protection to be provided immediately in all areas of Eastern Congo

GENEVA, 15 December 2008: Actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow, who’s just returned from a three day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, urged all armed groups in North Kivu to allow aid organizations to provide life saving assistance to women and children.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Ms Farrow said because of the violence in many areas, aid workers were facing huge challenges and were frustrated because they were unable to access thousands of people in need.

“Aid workers themselves are not safe yet they are doing heroic work under a very difficult situation,” Ms Farrow explained. “They are deeply concerned about those they cannot reach, particularly the most vulnerable: the women and children.  All armed groups must give aid workers immediate and complete humanitarian access.”

Since August this year, fighting between government forces and rebel groups have forced more than 250,000 people to flee their homes, contributing to the one million already displaced in eastern Congo.

Last week Ms Farrow spent three days in North Kivu, eastern DRC. Whilst there she visited camps for the internally displaced in Kiwandja and Kibati and UNICEF supported health and therapeutic feeding centres in Shasha and Kanyabayonga. She also went into villages where she spoke to women and children many of whom had been raped, beaten and forced from their homes.

“What is unfolding in DRC is one of the worst situations I have ever encountered,” she said. “In their own homes, people are raped, tortured, mutilated and abducted. All ordinary ways of life have been disrupted. People can’t farm, don’t have access to their land, there is no way to get food, children can’t go to school for fear of being raped or abducted. It’s a dire situation.”

Ms Farrow also visited a centre where more than two hundred former child soldiers, including three girls, were being protected and cared for. She said that after speaking with families, mothers, women and children, she discovered that what most of them wanted was protection and peace.

“In an atmosphere of complete impunity, multiple armed groups are on a rampage, committing the most barbaric atrocities against women and children. The international community needs to be vigorous in pursuing a halt to the fighting and a restoration of the rule of law,” she concluded.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Patrick McCormick: UNICEF New York, Tel: 1 212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org





11 December 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow’s visit to conflict-affected North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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