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Notable rise in violence against civilians, aid workers in DR Congo, UN reports

27 February 2009 – There has been a notable rise in violations against civilians and attacks on humanitarian workers in North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), leading to new displacement, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.

Some people fled the fighting, while others moved from villages to the forest and back again, OCHA’s Elizabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.

In addition, seven security incidents against humanitarian actors had been documented between 14 and 24 February, compared to 15 incidents since the beginning of the year.

The rise in such incidents might lead humanitarian organizations working in the province – which has been the scene of clashes between Government forces and rebels that have uprooted hundreds of thousands of people – to reduce or limit their work, leading to “disastrous” consequences for the population, Ms. Byrs said.

She said that the humanitarian community is appealing to all the parties in the territory to respect and protect the civilian population as well as aid workers and their equipment.

OCHA added that attacks against individuals, as well as entire villages and health centres, by the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are continuing in Haut Uélé province. DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan have joined forces in an offensive against the group, whose attacks have left hundreds dead and uprooted roughly 150,000 people.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it is preparing an emergency operation targeting those driven from their homes or who lost their crops and possessions as a result of LRA attacks.

Meanwhile, aid agencies say they need military protection and are working to find ways to get to remote populations that can only be accessed by helicopter.

Despite these constraints, OCHA reported that aid is reaching some people. WFP, for example, was able to distribute food to more than 32,000 displaced people last week.

OCHA also noted that work is ongoing to improve the airstrip in the north-eastern city of Doruma to facilitate arrivals of humanitarian air flights.

In a related development, Hilde Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is currently in eastern DRC, where she called today for the release of all children currently associated with armed groups in the area.

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