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Aid Agencies Prepare for Imminent Attack in North Kivu

A senior official of the U.N. Children's Fund says aid agencies are making contingency plans to help a possible new wave of displaced people in North Kivu. He says an attack by government forces in this eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo appears imminent. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Anthony Bloomberg, says there are unconfirmed reports up to 50,000 people were newly displaced when insurgents under Laurent Nkunda's command attacked North Kivu on Sunday.

He says a government deadline for Nkunda to disband his forces lapsed a long time ago and it looks as though an attack by the government against the renegade leader is imminent.

If this takes place, he says aid agencies believe more than 100,000 additional people could become homeless. That, he says, would increase the number of people already displaced in North Kivu since early this year to about one-half million.

"The humanitarian community has made a contingency plan in North Kivu to accommodate such a displacement," Bloomberg said. "The U.N. peacekeepers will also have to play their part to protect civilians and to secure humanitarian space to do humanitarian work. But I think that what is in prospect is not only a worsening situation in North Kivu, but the possibility of a resolution."

Bloomberg says attempts at a negotiated settlement to bring the fighting in North Kivu to an end so far have failed. Therefore, he says, it is possible a military solution may be the only way out of this intractable situation.

"I am not as UNICEF favoring a military solution," he said. "In fact, the United Nations as a whole has favored the peaceful, diplomatic solution. However, this has not worked. It appears as if there will be a military confrontation-even if the military may not be the solution, that one can expect some change to occur ... And the prospect that I painted is even though there may be a worsening of the situation because of the military confrontation, there is a prospect also that some improvement may take place in the medium term."

Bloomberg says UNICEF and its partners will expand food and non-food assistance to the displaced as needed. He says UNICEF currently is supporting more than 130 nutritional centers for malnourished children and runs mass immunization campaigns against measles and other killer diseases.

He says the agency helps to reunite children separated from their families and assists about one half of the many victims of sexual violence.

He says UNICEF works for the release of child soldiers. Indeed, a few weeks ago, he notes, the agency negotiated the release of more than 200 children from Mau Mau forces.