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Humanitarian Office Shores Up Presence in DR Congo

UN Humanitarian Office Shores Up Presence in DR Congo’s Katanga Province

New York, May 4 2006 6:00PM

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has opened a Field Coordination Unit in the troubled Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) saying the area is in the “throes of a silent humanitarian crisis.”

Called an “antenna” operation, the unit is being established in the locality of Mitwaba to help strengthen emergency programmes helping more than 165,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in precarious conditions.

The initiative aims to stem a deterioration of the humanitarian crisis marked by a lack of concrete measures on the part of the authorities to improve the protection of civilian population, which OCHA said remains “de facto hostages of armed men or groups.”

The Office said the recent upsurge of insecurity in the area has led, over the last few months, to an increase in population displacement, serious human rights violations, and other abuses on the civilian population. “Rapes, human exploitations, kidnappings are common practices in Katanga,” an area the size of France.

It underscored the need to boost the provision of food and protection, particularly shielding women against sexual violence.

Only three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are currently operational on the ground in Katanga, according to OCHA, although the mining industry has flourished. There is “an outstanding contrast between corporate revenues and impact on local communities,” OCHA said, calling on companies to exercise more corporate social responsibility so as to contribute to the well being of the local communities.

OCHA also called on the DRC Government to fulfill its responsibility towards the security and protection of civilians and appealed to donors to vigorously support humanitarian action in the war-ravaged country.

According to the UN refugee agency, almost 200,000 people have been driven from their homes in the last six months because of fighting between the Government and Mai Mai rebels in Katanga.

ENDS

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