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DRC Insecurity Hampering Humanitarian Assistance

Humanitarian agencies are still trying to gather information from parts of northeastern DRC that were recently attacked by Ugandan rebels. Attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killed hundreds of people and caused thousands of others to flee into the bush. UN agencies and others are trying to determine the exact number of people who need emergency assistance and the best way of getting it to them.

Jim Farrell, spokesman for the World Food Program, spoke from Goma, in the eastern DRC, to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the status of relief operations.

“The humanitarian situation is still grave…. However, food is flowing into a good portion of it (eastern DRC), for example, in the province of South Kivu, the province of North Kivu. The reason for the need for the food, of course, is all of the dislocations that occurred during November’s fighting,” he says.

At the time, government troops fought CNDP rebel forces led by Laurent Nkunda.

However, up in the northeastern part of the country, up near the point where the borders of Uganda…Sudan…and the Central African Republic come in, it really got brewed up again around Christmas time by a particularly notorious militia group up there. And we’ve now got a fresh population of displaced people. How many at this point we don’t know because there’s still fighting going on up there,” he says.

A multi-national military operation is underway in the region to hunt down the LRA.

“Before you can actually start supplying food, you have to do assessments. Before you do assessments, you have to have security, and that type of security is not in place yet,” says Farrell.

The WFP and other UN agencies believe that tens of thousands people have been displaced and may be lacking clean water supplies, which raises the risk of cholera.

“Complicating that is the fact that when these people fled, they had to leave their food stocks and their necessities for living behind. For many of the people who stayed in their towns and villages, the LRA burned much of their food stocks…. And it’s basically turned into a disaster for a great, great many people up there,” he says.

What’s more, the displacements have disrupted planting or harvesting. “So even though you’re here in one of the most lush and fertile areas of Africa, you’ve got this disastrous situation where the people have been cut off from their food supplies,” says the WFP spokesman.