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UN to Assess Needs of Survivors of LRA Attack in DRC

United Nations aid agencies and MONUC, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday will visit one of the villages that were brutally attacked by the rebel Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army last week. The UN refugee agency says the mission will assess the needs of those who survived the three-day assault in Equatoria Province over the Christmas period.

The rebel Lord's Resistance Army reportedly killed about 500 civilians during their three-day killing spree. The villages that were attacked, Faradje, Doruma and Gurba have been largely inaccessible to aid agencies.

But, UNHCR emergency officer in Dungu, Margaride Fawke, tells VOA in a telephone interview from Bunia, she is receiving disturbing reports about the dire condition of villagers who witnessed and survived the massacres.

"There will be a need for a long-term psychological care for these populations because they really are traumatized and the experiences they lived through, you know, they are going to haunt them for a long time," she said. "Also the basic immediate needs of food, water, basic items to replace what they lost when their villages were attacked."

The Lord's Resistance Army has been waging civil war against the Ugandan government for more than two decades. It has caused more than two million people to flee their homes. It has abducted more than 10,000 children and forced them to become soldiers, laborers and sex slaves.

The LRA shifted its base to the DRC after being ousted from its headquarters in southern Sudan. Since then, it has attacked Congolese villages, terrorized the civilians and abducted their children. An estimated 70,000 people have become internally displaced.

Fawke says the UN interagency mission and MONUC, The UN mission in the DRC, will go to Faradje on Saturday and then to Doruma as soon as possible. She says it is important to get a first-hand view of what is going on.

"These are all unconfirmed reports that we are getting," said Fawke. "It is really necessary that we go there first to assess the real needs. We cannot plan, you know, based on just rumors. We need to have a proper interagency mission."

Fawke says the UN representatives will go to Faradje by helicopter and spend as many hours as they can. She says it is too dangerous to stay there overnight.

She says the mission will discuss the situation and needs with the population, the authorities, the army and traditional chiefs and go to the hospital to get a rounded picture of what needs to be done.