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Increasing attacks on aid workers hampering relief efforts in DR Congo, says UN

20 October 2009 – A sharp rise in attacks on humanitarian workers in the eastern North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has impeded efforts to provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in need.

Since the beginning of 2009, a total of 108 attacks against humanitarian workers – including murders, abductions and theft of vehicles and other assets – were recorded in the province, compared to 105 during the whole of 2008.

The attacks have increased in recent weeks, with seven incidents reported during last week alone in the territories of Lubero, Masisi, Rutshuru, and Walikale.

North Kivu hosts an estimated 980,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – more than any other province in the strife-torn nation. UN agencies and over 70 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are operating in the province to deliver much-needed assistance.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), aid workers in the area currently able to reach at least 70 per cent of those in need.

“By decreasing our access to the areas concerned, those responsible are contributing to the suffering of millions of vulnerable people,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“Unfortunately, they are almost never brought to justice,” he added.

Of the 105 attacks against humanitarian actors reported during 2008, less than ten have been formally investigated by the police, and even fewer have led to judicial action.

Dieudonné Bamouni, deputy head of OCHA in the DRC, urged the authorities of North Kivu to launch thorough investigations into each and every incident, stressing that “the current impunity must end.”

Numerous waves of fighting over the years have produced around 2.2 million IDPs in DRC. An estimated 1.7 million people remain displaced in the provinces of North and South Kivu, with more than 400,000 persons having fled their homes since January.

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