Relief aid push planned for UN-monitored buffer area in eastern DR Congo

23 December 2004

United Nations humanitarian agencies and their partners are planning a new relief aid push aimed at helping internally displaced people (IDPs) in the troubled eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) now that a buffer zone there has restored a measure of security.

The UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC (MONUC) has deployed more than 280 South African soldiers on the Lubero-Kirumba axis to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Additional forces are expected in the coming days, including members of an Indian battalion who will be redeployed from Ituri.

The reinforced security has paved the way for humanitarian agencies to assist tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) who emptied out of their villages near Kanyabayonga, in North Kivu, when factional clashes broke out between Congolese government troops and renegade forces late last week.

The presence of UN peacekeepers has also encouraged the first returns to the area, with five small groups of about 40 people each reported to have gone back, and MONUC predicts that more will follow now that steps have been taken to improve security.

Aid agencies have been meeting in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, as well as in Goma and Beni, to set a humanitarian action plan in motion.

"The humanitarian actors are coordinating with the military in order to start providing and delivering humanitarian assistance," MONUC spokeswoman Eliane Nabaa told the UN News Service. "Efforts are ongoing."

Organized in part by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meetings brought together representatives of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They hammered out the first phase of a humanitarian action plan for Kanyabayonga, Kirumba, Kayna and surrounding areas.

In October, the Security Council expanded MONUC's mandate and authorized an increase in its troop strength, but stopped short of raising levels to what Secretary-General Kofi Annan said would be needed in the war-torn central African country. Mr. Annan had sought 23,900 troops and 507 civilian, but the Council approved a ceiling of 16,700 in total.


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