DRC: Press release by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator [19991012]

DRC: Press release by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator [19991012]

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Source: UN DRC



Hundreds of thousands of Congolese are currently caught in a daily struggle to remain alive along a vast cease fire line in the Democratic Republic of Congo, declared on Sunday 10 October the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for DRC Mr Darioush Bayandor, following a visit to Eastern Congo. In areas such as Moba, Kalemie, Nyunzu, which have been visited earlier in the week by a UN/NGO/Donor team from East Congo, severe economic depression, acute malnutrition and depletion of towns around the cease-fire line were reported.

Local markets have stopped functioning. People who have not fled have lost all their possessions as well as their means of livelihood. The still existing small agricultural produce can not be sold in spite of bottom rocketing prices. Lack of outlet to traditional bigger markets such as Lubumbashi and Mbuji Mayi on the other side of the cease fire line is stifling what remains of pre-war economies in north Katanga. A sample nutritional screening conducted by two international NGOs in Baraka in South Kivu reveals astonishingly high rates of acute and chronic malnutrition. It is not hard to imagine the mortality tagged to such malnutrition rates, knowing especially that the medical stocks are totally depleted and facilities non existent.

Mr. Bayandor who was briefed in Nyunzu by members of the interagency team also visited Goma and Uvira in Kivus. He was accompanied by officials from UNICEF, UNDP, OCHA and UNHCR. "The existence of 1.1 million war displaced persons within the DRC and across its frontiers is just one facet of the humanitarian drama in this country. These are sober facts with no tinge of dramatisation" he said, adding "they should be highlighted so that there be no alibi they were not known".

Similar findings have been reported by UN led missions in other parts of DRC on both sides of the cease fire line. "We are embarrassed to continue to send out these missions because they create expectations among the badly hit population that somebody is finally coming to their rescue. With the current funding situation this unfortunately is not the case. This repeated failure to deliver is likely to compromise the hard-won possibility of access which has been provided to the UN system throughout the country," he noted.

The mission was struck by the fact that the suffering of the people could, at least partly, be attenuated if certain immediate provisions of the Lusaka cease fire accord such as the principle of free movement of persons and goods (annex C paragraph 6) could be put into implementation. Commerce outlets could prevent the asphyxiation currently experienced by semi urban economies in so many parts of the DRC. Equally, steps to facilitate cross-line movements of persons - the stranded families as a first step - could build confidence and enhance the sense of national unity.

The UN mission to Eastern DRC also underscored the precarious security situation in the east in the zone of operations of UN/NGO humanitarian workers in Kivus. Enhanced military activities by various militia added to perceptions of inevitable clashes between various state and non state protagonists, have fed foreboding of an impending upheaval of an unprecedented scale in Kivus.

"People in all parts of the DRC however cry out for peace", the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator said, adding the war fatigue has engendered grass-root initiatives for communal cohabitation and reconciliation notably in the Uvira and Fizi districts. The Lusaka peace process is seen as the last hope to clinch to. "The international community must do its utmost to help the parties implement various provisions of the Lusaka Cease fire Accord so that a new large scale tragedy and prolonged instability could be avoided".

The UN seeks to give added momentum to the peace process through seeking to develop a humanitarian complement. A humanitarian agenda should address such issues as the return and reintegration of the displaced persons and refugees, reintegration of demobilised militia and child soldiers, internationally funded projects designed to enhance co-existence and ethnic harmony guaranteeing the rights of all minorities within the framework of a unified, sovereign and integral DRC.

Kinshasa, 10 October 1999


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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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