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More help needed as Congo crisis worsens

Countries
DR Congo
Sources
Caritas
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Caritas is calling for more funds to help people made homeless in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where a "humanitarian catastrophe" is unfolding because of months of violence.

"People are still running through the forests and mountains," says Dr Bruno Miteyo, Secretary General of Caritas Congo. "Kivu is very high up so it is cold, but they leave their houses without clothes, food or anything else."

Caritas needs US$4 million to provide 150,000 people with items such as blankets, clothes, soap, cooking utensils, as well as medical support over the next five months. At least 150 women who have suffered sexual violence will also receive medical treatment and psychological support.

An appeal for for US$1.5 million was launched at the beginning of October to help an initial 90,000 people in Congo, but since then many more people have fled their homes because of the worsening violence.

Congolese bishops recently said the situation in eastern Congo has all the hallmarks of a "silent genocide" and urged international action.

Mass killings have been reported in villages, rape cases are on the rise and there are concerns over the induction of children into rebel ranks.

Many women are at risk of rape in camps or when they go out to look for firewood to cook with. It is hard to say how many women have been raped in the current violence, but the problem is widespread.

"Some speak up, most of them can't," says Dr Miteyo. "In society they become nothing if they speak out."

Dr Miteyo says providing humanitarian assistance is a big challenge because fighting cuts people off from aid agencies.

"Right now vulnerable people such as children, older people and pregnant women are dying because they are not receiving assistance," he says.

Dr Miteyo says that children between the ages of 8 and 14 are also at risk of being forced by rebels to be child soldiers.

"Sometimes they give them drugs, they show them how to kill, how to steal money and how to survive in very difficult places," he says.

"The future of youth is lost because at a fragile age they are made to take up weapons and kill."

Caritas urges more action in Congo as Monuc is failing to stem the violence.

Caritas calls on the international community, the DRC Government and regional leaders to address the causes of this recurrent tragedy which is fuelled by the presence of external armed forces and the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

For more information please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879752/+39 334 234 4136 or hough@caritas.va