Oxfam raises alarm about escalating Congo violence

By rbaker

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GOMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — Fresh fighting in eastern Congo has displaced tens of thousands more people from their homes, international aid agency Oxfam said today as it called for urgent action to bring the region back from the brink.

It is reported that 20,000 men, women and children fled from the Kibumba area, north of Goma on Monday. About 4,000 of these are currently camped on a makeshift site in Kibati, outside Goma town with very little humanitarian support. An unknown number of people from villages north of Kibumba fled in the opposite direction towards Rutshuru. Since August, some 200,000 people have been uprooted from their homes as fighting has surged between Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and the Congolese army.

"The road to Goma town is a throng of men, women and children desperately searching for refuge in the town's crowded camps," said Juliette Prodhan, head of Oxfam in Congo. "Many people have been forced to sleep out in the open as they cannot find shelter. The numbers fleeing are staggering. People urgently need our help. And yet it doesn't look like the fighting is over, so the likelihood is that more people will be fleeing in the coming days."

Oxfam supplies clean water and sanitation to the camps around the Goma to minimize the spread of disease and has been scaling up its response to deal with the new influx. Over 15,000 more people have arrived at the already overstretched camps outside Goma in the past two months. Oxfam is also developing a plan to supply water and sanitation to a proposed new camp in the town, which will open if the situation continues to deteriorate.

As well as responding to immediate humanitarian needs, Oxfam International is calling on diplomats and foreign ministers to apply urgent pressure to stop the crisis escalating still further.

Juliette Prodhan said, "A peace deal—which was agreed in January this year—offered many in this region tremendous hope. The world should not sit by while it crumbles. Further violence will only cause more human misery and suffering for people who have already suffered too much. The world must act now and call for a ceasefire and solutions to this crisis before it's too late."

What you can do to help

To support the people of Congo, please consider making a contribution to Oxfam America's Democratic Republic of Congo Relief & Rehabilitation Fund.

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