August 8, 2013

UN: Thousands in Congo’s eastern town need urgent aid

The United Nations has expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the town of Kamango in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after recent fighting sent thousands of people fleeing for safety.
Internally displaced Congolese sit inside a United Nations base in Monigi, near Goma, as they seek shelter from the violence in eastern Congo. (file photo)
Internally displaced Congolese sit inside a United Nations base in Monigi, near Goma, as they seek shelter from the violence in eastern Congo. (file photo)

On Wednesday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that thousands of people who fled attacks on the town by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels need urgent aid, AFP reported.

The Uganda-led rebel group attacked and briefly occupied Kamango in the northernmost part of Congo’s volatile North Kivu province on July 11.

The Congolese army was able to regain control of Kamango a day later, but the Red Cross estimated that some 66,000 people had fled to Uganda.

The UN agency said a mission, which visited the region at the end of July, estimated that some 37,500 people remained displaced in the zone of Kamango, with the majority in the area of Nobili, close to the Ugandan border.

OCHA also said that some 80 percent of displaced families were facing hunger because they could neither have access to their crops nor buy basic food supplies from local markets.

In addition, “these people… have no access to healthcare, as health infrastructures have borne the brunt of the violence,” it added.
“Of 13 health structures in the zone of Kamango, only one remains functional, all others have been pillaged, destroyed or emptied of their medical personnel,” noted OCHA, adding that there was little access to drinking water.

The ADF was formed in the mid-1990s in the Rwenzori mountains in western Uganda.

Several armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

Since early May 2012, more than three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but some 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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