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UN Humanitarian Chief Visits DRC

August 08, 2012

by Joe DeCapua

U.N. humanitarian chief Valarie Amos says many thousands of people in the eastern DRC are in urgent need of food, water and shelter. Amos spent several days in the region to assess the humanitarian response to the crisis.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs saw first hand the effects of attacks by the M-23 rebel group in North Kivu Province.

“I visited one of the spontaneous camps that have grown up as a result of the thousands of people who have been fleeing the conflict. The conditions are extremely bad because of course what has happened is that people have just fled with very few possessions. [In] the camp I visited today there is no water, so water is having to be trucked in. These circumstances are very difficult indeed,” she said.

Speaking from Goma, Amos said drinking water is being brought in by truck, but she adds that the displaced also need food and shelter.

“People have basically been sheltering in public buildings like schools. Some have had to sleep out in the open air, including the elderly and children. It’s been raining very, very badly today so the conditions are terrible. We’ve now been able to get some plastic sheeting to some people so that they can make a little tent,” she said.

However, the distribution of aid will take four or five days to complete.

“Well, the partners are working as quickly as they can. It’s just the sheer volume of numbers that we are talking about here. So organizing to get these distributions out to those enormous numbers of people is not an easy thing to do. I’m also worried about the longer term. We need more money to support our response efforts,” she said.

Humanitarian agencies say they need about $790 million this year for operations in the DRC. They say they’ve received about $340 million so far. Amos says she hopes her visit will raise awareness about the situation.

The U.N. official met with a number of national and local Congolese officials about the crisis.

“In my view we need to scale-up our response significantly. We’re dealing with a part of the country where the infrastructure is very poor. The road network is not very good at all. So getting supplies in is difficult. Of course we’re looking at a range of ways in which we can do that, including using air transportation. But that is more expensive, as you can appreciate,” he said.

Valarie Amos says she will brief U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and possibly the Security Council about her visit.

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