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DR of Congo: UN refugee and food agencies gear up relief efforts

DR of Congo: UN refugee and food agencies gear up relief efforts

Urgently needed relief supplies are being delivered to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where tens of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic fled following a failed coup attempt in their country earlier this year, the United Nations refugee agency announced today.

This morning an aircraft from the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC left the capital, Kinshasa, with 17 tonnes of relief items, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in Geneva. The items will be ferried by helicopter to the town of Zongo, where some 15,000 refugees are occupying schools, churches and other public buildings. Yesterday, a UNHCR-chartered aircraft made several trips there, delivering tonnes of plastic sheeting, blankets, mats and jerry cans.

Zongo is about 1 kilometre across the river border from the Central African Republic capital, Bangui. Up to 7,000 refugees also remain scattered across 20 villages along the DRC side of the Oubangui River, while another 3,000 to 4,000 gathered in the town of Libenge.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) today launched an appeal for $2.1 million to fund an emergency humanitarian air operation in the DRC as part of the agency's ongoing effort to widen access in that country.

The six-month operation would enable aid workers to fly across the country's frontlines to remote areas to assess the needs of war-torn populations and set up relief operations, WFP said.

The first stage is expected to begin in early August and will be able to transport 19 passengers or two tonnes of light items, such as medicines, from Kinshasa to the eastern city of Goma.

Since mid-June, WFP has flown crucial food aid to severely malnourished children in isolated areas of Katanga province. Its emergency airlift operation has so far delivered about 400 tonnes of food into four towns caught in the crossfire of armed factions but has been unable to reach two others due to insecurity and poor airstrips.