Appeal for peace in Congo
30 October 2008
Caritas Internationalis is appealing for peace in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to end the suffering of the people and to allow the aid agency to provide aid.
Refugees flee with their belongings on the road between Goma and Kibati, about 25 km (16 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma
A rebel ceasefire has been declared and Caritas hopes that it will be respected and backed up by a return to existing peace accords.
Around 250,000 civilians have fled their homes in North Kivu since a January peace deal collapsed in August. Nearly 850,000 had been displaced in the previous two years.
Caritas Internationalis is an umbrella organisation of 162 national Catholic charities, many of which fund programmes in eastern Congo or have staff on the ground.
The joint Caritas emergency response aims to provide food and other aid items to 90,000 people made homeless by the fighting in eastern Congo.
Distributions of food by Caritas staff to 10,000 households was halted after fighting meant staff could not travel.
Unless security is quickly restored, planned Caritas distributions of non-food items in the provincial capital Goma and the outlying region are likely to be compromised, preventing 16,000 homes from receiving aid.
International staff are in the process of being evacuated. Caritas national staff remain in place and continue to support the people as their humanitarian needs increase.
Caritas Internationalis Africa Liaison Officer Fr Pierre Cibambo said, “We’re witnessing the escalation of a humanitarian disaster that threatens to now engulf eastern Congo and the region. The 1998-2003 war and the resulting humanitarian crisis cost the lives of 5.4 million people. A return to war will be a catastrophe.
“It has become difficult for Caritas to provide food and medicine to people who are in urgent need. All sides of the conflict have a duty to allow aid agencies access to the population and to protect the lives of civilians. It’s vital that security be restored and that relief efforts be allowed to resume.
“Caritas is a grassroots organisation. Our staff are part of the communities we serve. This gives us the possibility to continue our work.
“All sides must abide by the agreements they have signed up to. Congo’s people have for too long been held hostage by the conflict. We risk losing the positive steps made since free and fair elections in 2006 and a successful round of peace negotiations in January 2008.”
Please call Patrick Nicholson on +39 06 698 79 725 or +39 334 359 0700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any requests.