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Red Cross Distributes Aid to Thousands Displaced by Fighting in Eastern Congo


The International Committee of the Red Cross has begun distributing essential items to more than 500 displaced families who have taken refuge in South Kivu in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Red Cross says these people have fled fighting in north Kivu Province and are particularly vulnerable as few have any place to live. Lisa Schlein reports from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the intensity of fighting between Congolese government forces and renegade troops in North Kivu has lessened in recent days. But it says fighting continues and the humanitarian crisis is spilling over into neighboring South Kivu province.

In recent weeks, an estimated 500 families - or more than 2,500 people - have taken refuge in South Kivu. Red Cross spokeswoman Anna Schaaf says the new arrivals are even more vulnerable than the previous wave of displaced people.

She told VOA these people had to flee in a hurry and were not able to take even the most basic items from their huts.

"So, they really have just fled with the clothes they were wearing and that is all," she said. "And some of them are really in a bad health state as well because they have been on the road now for a few days. They did not find enough food. Some of them are ill and need medical treatment and lots of them are women and children who are very, very tired now and need some medical assistance."

The International Committee of the Red Cross describes the situation as critical. Schaaf says South Kivu is teeming with thousands of people who have fled previous armed clashes in North Kivu.

She says local residents, who are overwhelmed by this new influx, are unable to extend a helping hand to the newcomers, many of whom are pregnant women and children.

"The residents in the area have already taken in lots of other displaced in the last weeks and are now really stretched to the limits and they are not able anymore to take in anyone else." said Schaaf. "So, these recent arrivals are even worse off than those who arrived a few weeks ago because they do not even find a shelter or find a place to stay even for a few days."

The International Committee of the Red Cross is distributing basic household items, mats and jerry cans to the displaced. The World Food Program is delivering food parcels.

Schaaf says the Red Cross also is supplying the local hospital with kits for the treatment of war-wounded and basic medicines, in particular those required to treat rape victims.

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