DR Congo: UN voices concern at attacks against humanitarian organizations
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today voiced serious concern over attacks by armed groups involving humanitarian vehicles and staff in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting and spiralling lawlessness have displaced hundreds of thousands of people over the past year.
“We are requesting the Government and all armed groups present in this zone to take all necessary measures urgently to improve security and facilitate access for humanitarian organizations on the ground,” OCHA said in a statement.
It cited more than 10 incidents in 2007 involving vehicles and humanitarian staff in the Goma and Rutshuru areas, where fighting has flared recently between Government troops and rebels allied to dissident army general Laurent Nkunda.
Just last Sunday, a vehicle of an international non-governmental organization (NGO) was attacked in the town of Nyongera in the middle of the day while the population watched helplessly.
Despite such systematic violations of humanitarian principles, aid organizations have maintained their field operations to help hundreds of thousands of displaced and vulnerable people. For the last two weeks, these organizations have been helping local health authorities fight a cholera outbreak in Rutshuru.
Three international organizations have already announced that they will suspend their operations from tomorrow for 48 hours “to re-evaluate the security situation and to make the parties to the conflict realize the risks related to a withdrawal of humanitarian presence in the event of a more serious incident,” OCHA said.
Although the DRC held its first democratic elections in over four decades last year, solidifying its transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease – widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II – fighting has continued in the volatile east of the vast country.