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Rapes and attacks on civilians continue in eastern DR Congo, UN reports

19 October 2009 – Night-time attacks on civilians and rape by armed men remain widespread in a strife-torn region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where nearly 5,400 cases of rape were reported in the first six months of the year, United Nations officials said today.

Earlier this month five women were raped and one of the victims was killed by armed men believed to be members of the national army in the Bunyakiri area of Uvira territory in South Kivu province, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The four survivors are being treated in a health centre.

OCHA reiterated calls for an immediate end to these abuses and for their perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, some 110,000 people displaced by conflict in North Kivu province have returned to their areas of origin during the last two months, including some 60,000 who were hosted in camps managed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (,a href="http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home">UNHCR) and its partners around Goma, the provincial capital.

Aid is being provided to the entire community in the areas of return, in particular in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories, through a holistic approach without differentiating between returnees and others, which humanitarian organizations believe is the approach most conducive to the successful reinsertion of returnees in a tension-free environment.

An estimated 980,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), however, remain in volatile North Kivu, in need of continued humanitarian aid after being driven from their homes by fighting between the army and various armed groups, including Rwanda Hutu rebels.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing three-month food rations to the returning IDPs while the UNHCR has supplied non-food items, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) farm tools and other agriculture inputs.

Meanwhile, in the southern province of Katanga, FAO and WFP, with support from the Belgian Government, has launched a pilot project aimed at increasing agricultural production and facilitating access to markets for farmers in Kabalo territory. The project will help 4,000 small-scale farmers boost food production.

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