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Military uncertainty in Democratic Republic of Congo threatens to exacerbate humanitarian crisis

Source: World Vision - USA - Thu, 29 Nov 2012 17:24 GMT
Author: Lauren Fisher, World Vision
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

  • World Vision calling for international leaders to step up in the midst of M23 withdrawal
  • Thousands of displaced still pouring into camps in need of food, water
  • Changing frontlines and unclear negotiations mean aid workers forced to leave some areas of desperate need as conflict flares

Goma, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (29 Novmeber 2012)  As signs appear that M23 forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo may have started withdrawing from two towns captured from government troops, World Vision is calling for international support to make sure the conflict does not worsen a vast humanitarian crisis

“The frontlines keep changing, and tens of thousands of people continue to be displaced and re-displaced. Their desperate hunger is compounded by exposure to extreme violence – whatever negotiations are going on at the international level they are having no impact here,” said Dominic Keyzer, Eastern Region Advocacy Manager for the DRC.

M23 leaders Wednesday committed to withdrawal from two towns captured from government troops – Sake and Masisi. The military leader said this follows an agreement facilitated by Uganda. The move comes as the continued violence has left an estimated 140,000 displaced from their homes. A number that is expected to grow if the situation does not stabilize. World Vision staff report seeing thousands of families still moving into makeshift camps.

The situation for the displaced is deplorable. They are living in small huts made with sticks and they are hungry with very little food and water. One girl we met broke down in tears from hunger – it was heartbreaking,” said Aimee Manimani, Senior Communications Officer for World Vision in the DRC. “When people are hungry they get desperate – and in this environment, that can increase the chance for outbreaks of violence. World Vision is determined to help people in their hour of need. Especially for women and children food is the number one priority”

World Vision is currently supplying more than 31,000 people with rations of beans, maize flour, oil and salt and is working with the World Food Program to secure new supplies for the rapidly growing numbers in some camps. However, the violence continues to hinder relief efforts.

"Ensuring access to populations at risk is extremely important. On Wednesday we had to cut our assessment [which is critical to us in finding and serving people in need] short as fighting was coming closer to our teams in the field. Actors in the conflict must ensure that humanitarian organizations can reach our communities and provide them with life-saving support,” said James Chifwelu, Regional Director for World Vision in the DRC.

Meanwhile, the future of Goma remains unclear. The city’s power is sporadic and is currently being rationed. Public offices, schools and banks have been closed at times. However few shops and other private offices are opening slowly. Rebel patrols in the city, held for more than a week by the M23 movement, have also been scaled back and witnesses said they see fewer of the groups' soldiers on the streets and instead are seeing an increase in U.N. stabilization forces.

"We are seeing an increase in MONUSCO patrols around the city, and hoping that this ongoing presence will help to maintain the tense calm that exists, so that children can return to school without fear," Chifwelu said.

"The complexity of the eastern DRC, facing at the same time conflict and massive humanitarian and development challenges, has really stretched the capacity of MONUSCO (the UNs stabilization force in the DRC). It is hoped that this crisis will highlight and encourage further support both for prioritizing the protection of civilians, and for managing a more coherent stabilization process," said Robert Kisyula, National Director for World Vision in the DRC.

 - END -

About World Vision: World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world's poor — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews

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