August 14 2012

Half a million flee war and disease in Congo

14/08/2012 - Since late July 2012, the already fragile stability in eastern Congo has been further undermined by violent clashes between government and rebel troops. Nearly half a million people have been uprooted from their homes according to the UN. As thousands of families seek food, shelter and safety, SOS Children’s Villages prepares to act.

Photo: B. Neelemann
Half a million people need food and shelter - Photo: Benno Neelemann
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has been plagued by violence and insecurity for decades, is seemingly redescending into chaos after a short period of relative stability. Nearly half a million people have been driven form their homes in search of safety, food and shelter. According to the United Nations, there are 220,000 displaced people in the province of North Kivu and 200,000 in South Kivu, while some 51,000 have fled across the border into Uganda and Rwanda.

SOS Children’s Villages has been active in DRC since the 1980’s, when the country was still known as “Zaire”. Reports of unaccompanied children whose parents were killed have already reached our programmes, and SOS teams are working closely together with other aid organisations to identify the need for food and shelter and the most efficient way to get help to families and children as quickly as possible.

Photo: SOS Archives
Cholera is the most common disease in IDP camps - Photo: SOS Archives
Most seek help in camps both inside the country and in neighbouring countries, but conditions are far from ideal here, too. Transportation of emergency aid goods is hampered by bad roads and insecurity; any attempt at concerted help is foiled by the sheer scale of the chaos. In addition to this, World Health Organization Officials have reported a sharp rise in cases of cholera - a disease that is typical of the appalling conditions displaced people face - and are worried that a full-blown epidemic may be imminent.

The eastern part of Congo has been a victim of widespread violence since 1994, following the genocide in Rwanda. An all-out war between eight African countries that broke out in 1998 and took place on Congolese territory claimed more than 5 million casualties, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. In spite of peace accords signed in 2003, fighting has continued to this day.