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Mia Farrow Calls for Humanitarian Access

Mia Farrow Calls for Humanitarian Access & Protection in DR Congo

GENEVA, 15 December 2008: Actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow is urging all armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to allow aid organizations to provide life saving assistance to women and children.

Ms Farrow, who has just visited DR Congo, told a media conference in Geneva that because of the violence in the eastern province of North Kivu, aid workers were facing huge challenges and were frustrated because they were unable to access thousands of people in need.

“Aid workers themselves are not safe yet they are doing heroic work under a very difficult situation,” says Ms Farrow.

“They are deeply concerned about those they cannot reach, particularly the most vulnerable: the women and children. All armed groups must give aid workers immediate and complete humanitarian access.”

Since August this year, fighting between government forces and rebel groups have forced more than 250,000 people to flee their homes, contributing to the one million already displaced in eastern Congo. The UN has more than 6,000 peacekeepers in North Kivu province.

Last week Ms Farrow spent three days in North Kivu. Whilst there she visited camps for the internally displaced in Kiwandja and Kibati, and saw firsthand UNICEF-supported health and therapeutic feeding centres in Shasha and Kanyabayonga. Ms Farrow also spoke to women and children, many of whom had been raped, beaten and forced from their homes.

“What is unfolding in DR Congo is one of the worst situations I have ever encountered.

“In their own homes, people are raped, tortured, mutilated and abducted. All ordinary ways of life have been disrupted. People can’t farm, don’t have access to their land, there is no way to get food, children can’t go to school for fear of being raped or abducted. It’s a dire situation.”

Ms Farrow also visited a centre where more than two hundred former child soldiers, including three girls, were being protected and cared for. She said that after speaking with families, mothers, women and children, she discovered that what most of them wanted was protection and peace.

“In an atmosphere of complete impunity, multiple armed groups are on a rampage, committing the most barbaric atrocities against women and children. The international community needs to be vigorous in pursuing a halt to the fighting and a restoration of the rule of law.”

UNICEF NZ is running an appeal to help children affected by the crisis in DR Congo. Donate online at www.unicef.org.nz

ENDS

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