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Disaster looms in Democratic Republic of Congo

NGO staff evacuated from key towns as security situation deteriorates.

Concern Worldwide today warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Over 1.3 million people are already internally displaced and humanitarian agencies are struggling to maintain effective operations. Rebel CNDP forces continue their advance against government FARDC troops in the eastern province of North Kivu.

Evacuation of staff

Concern has evacuated its staff from Masisi and Goma, and is calling on the international community to broker a ceasefire. Concern has approximately 300 local and international staff based in DRC. 

On Wednesday 29 October 2008, Concern staff in Masisi had to return to the organisation’s main base in Goma as the CNDP rebels closed in on the town. This is the second time in a month Concern has been forced to evacuate its staff from Masisi. As retreating government troops fled towards Goma, along with thousands of displaced people, Concern staff took the decision to close their offices in the border town.

“The international community must continue to promote a durable ceasefire agreement for North Kivu,” said Louise Supple, Regional Director of Concern. “We are calling for the international community to now focus on opening up a humanitarian dialogue with all parties to the conflict to negotiate a humanitarian space to aid the civilian population.”

Emergency response

There is little prospect of the security situation improving in the short-term. The Concern team is standing by to return to Goma to provide an emergency response. Some of the locals have been have been displaced up to four times in the last year.

Many people are seeking refuge in the host communities in Goma town; many others are already living in refugee camps. It is essential that relief efforts are focused on these most vulnerable people.

Concern’s operations in other territories of DRC remain unaffected by the security situation in North Kivu.

Concern’s recent work in DRC

The rapidly deteriorating security situation in recent days has greatly impeded Concern’s work in DRC. In coordination with its partners, Concern has been providing assistance to approximately 14,000 internally displaced people in four camps near Masisi town. Concern has been providing these camps with essential shelter and household items for almost a year now. Concern has also been providing support to approximately 2,400 families in the area who have taken displaced people into their homes and provided them with shelter.

Rehabilitation works on key roads and bridges in the areas have also been supported by Concern. These works have injected significant amounts of cash into the local economy, thereby having a  knock-on beneficial impact on the whole community.