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Republic of Congo: senior UN relief official urges access to victims of conflict

Republic of Congo: senior UN relief official urges access to victims of conflict

Kenzo Oshima
With tens of thousands of vulnerable people believed to be hiding in forests and small villages in conflict-torn parts of the Republic of Congo, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today called on the warring parties to guarantee humanitarian access to those most in need.

Kenzo Oshima's plea followed an assessment mission comprising UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which visited the country's besieged Pool Region on Tuesday. The mission - the first allowed into the area since the conflict between the government and so-called Ninja rebels broke out in March - found some 2,000 people in the town in poor condition and without adequate shelter and food. A further 14,000 have apparently fled, taking refuge in the bush.

On Wednesday, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Director for West and Central Africa, Rima Salah, met with Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and received his pledge that the Government would ensure unlimited humanitarian access to assist local populations at risk.

Today's plea, issued jointly by Mr. Oshima and international aid agencies, also called on the warring parties to stop committing human rights violations against civilians, and expressed regret at the apparent disregard for the humanitarian consequences of military actions.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) today announced plans to distribute food this weekend to people in the town of Kindamba in the Pool Region, as part of the agency's effort to provide food aid to those most in need among the 50,000 displaced by the fighting. Emergency food distribution has already commenced for those who fled to the capital Brazzaville, with some 205 metric tons of food mobilized to provide support for the displaced there over the next week.

WFP has marshalled 3,800 tons of food for immediate distribution in the Republic of Congo - enough to feed the target population for ten months. However, the agency cautioned that the food being used for the effort comes from a WFP programme designed to provide longer-term assistance to the country's poor and must be replaced.