Crisis in Congo
Aid agencies are struggling to get access to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Congo’s Democratic Republic (DRC). Many aid workers had to evacuate, as fighting between rebels and government forces encroached on Goma, the provincial capital.
It is believed that well over a quarter of a million people have been displaced in what has been a forgotten conflict. Christian organisations are at the forefront of relief efforts, with Mission Aviation Fellowship helping aid agencies bring vital food and medical supplies to thousands of people.
Tearfund agencies are drawing up plans to reach the volatile east of the country. What is urgently needed is a relief corridor to provide secure access to displaced people.
Tearfund works with two development agencies in the region. Both have staff remaining in Goma, at the time of this report.
However, a spokesperson for HEAL Africa said the control of Goma was in limbo, retreating government forces having worsened the security situation by going on looting sprees and fuelling public fear.
Rebel forces, known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People, have taken control of several key towns. The UN, which has a 17,000-strong peace-keeping force in the region, says the fighting is having a ‘catastrophic’ humanitarian toll.
Tearfund’s Disaster Management Director, David Bainbridge, says that the number of people affected will grow even larger unless there is a cessation of hostilities. ‘The UN peace keeping force needs a strengthened mandate which would allow it to enforce peace rather than just protect themselves’, says David.
‘Local people have been known to stone UN vehicles out of frustration for a lack of intervention to keep any peace. We are working with our partner agencies to help civilians caught up in this, but we need the fighting to stop as soon as possible’.
As Evangelical Times goes to press, a fragile cease-fire only just appears to be holding and intense diplomatic efforts are being made to bring the warring parties to a more permanent cessation of hostilities.