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WFP Beings Distributing Food to Congo Refugees


The U.N. World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross are working together to provide food to tens of thousands of hungry people displaced by fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province. About one-quarter of a million people have been made homeless since new fighting erupted between government and rebel forces in August. Last week alone, 100,000 people reportedly fled. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The World Food Program says it plans to distribute a 10-day supply of food to more than 135,000 displaced people in six camps around Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in eastern DRC.

It says it will distribute the rations in all camps at the same time to avoid people crisscrossing the city in search of extra food assistance, and to prevent disturbances at distribution sites.

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross says it will distribute food rations to another 65,000 displaced people who are now gathered at Kibati camp, 15 kilometers north of Goma.

Red Cross Spokeswoman, Anna Schaff, says its staff is also providing clean drinking water to thousands of needy people.

"We have done water trucking in the past days for about 20,000 displaced people in Kibati camp and we are going to continue this. It amounts to approximately 54,000 liters per day of water," said Schaff. "And, we are doing this together with the support of the volunteers of the Congolese Red Cross in the camp."

Schaff says the Red Cross also has a psychosocial team working in Kibati camp to counsel women who have been raped. She says a house that was used to shelter rape victims in the camp was looted and destroyed in the past days.

She says Red Cross aid workers now are trying to reconstruct the house, so women in need of assistance can, once again, go there.

"It is not a house where they live. It is a house where they can go during the day and they can find psychosocial support," added Schaff. "They find volunteers from the Congolese Red Cross they can talk to and give them advise to them as to where they can go for health issues, for example. So, there was no one in the house at the time when it was looted. The volunteers who were working there fled, but they are back since yesterday in the camp. So, they are trying to pick up their work from there"

The Red Cross describes the humanitarian situation in conflict-ridden North Kivu as terrible. Spokeswoman Schaff says Red Cross volunteers have been working non-stop since last week to ensure proper sanitation in the Kibati camps. She says they have installed latrines and are working to promote good hygiene practices there.