UN calls for more aid to people of northeastern DR of Congo

23 December 2003

A United Nations humanitarian mission to a strife-torn northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is calling on aid organizations to help people there whose lives are being held together by a "desperate thread."

The people of Haut Uele, especially its main town of Isiro, are complaining of continued harassment by the army and police and the levying of unauthorized taxes by the administration, the mission says in a report released today.

The area is governed by the former rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-National (RCD-N) which is now part of the national transitional government. According to the report, the locals also say military recruitment continues, especially of children.

The mission is urging humanitarian agencies to open offices in Isiro, where it says the reduced staff of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international non-governmental organization MEDAIR feel they are working alone to meet major humanitarian needs.

The residents are suffering from a lack of clean water, the mission says, and the majority of households lack access to a balanced, protein-rich diet.

More than 100,000 workers are unemployed due to a drastic strife-induced decline in the area's agricultural industry, which used to comprise growing and processing cotton, coffee and palm oil, the report says.

The joint mission, which visited Isiro from 26-28 November, included the UN Deputy Special Representative to the DRC, Lena Sundh, German Ambassador Loretta Loschelder, and representatives from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With the advent of the dry season in January, many displaced people will be on the move and are likely to spread meningitis, which experts have confirmed to be spreading in the region, the mission says.

A separate OCHA report raises concern over an estimated 6,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Watsa, northeast of Isiro. Further details are difficult to obtain because no mission has been able to visit the area.

 

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