URGENT relief aid is under way for nearly two million refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing increased fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to church and agency officials.
The people were displaced following clashes between the March 23 (M23) rebels and the Congolese army, the FADRC (Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo).
The conflict started in May following a disagreement over a 2009 accord which integrated the rebels into the army. "As a result of the fighting many people are now displaced and need assistance.
They are living in deplorable conditions.
Other are fleeing across the border," said Pastor Josue Bulambo Lembelembe, a vice president of Church of Christ in Congo in North Kivu. "We (churches) are trying to find ways to support the displaced people." In the neighboring Uganda, the refugees are settling at Ramwanja camp in the western region. Smaller numbers are also moving to Rwanda, which is being accused of backing the rebels. Services at the Ramwanja settlement are insufficient to meet the basic needs of the increasing refugee numbers, according to ACT Alliance, the Geneva based group of church agencies. "This has resulted in a dire humanitarian situation," said the alliance in a 29 June appeal.
"The supplies are inadequate.
Their shelters lack privacy, protection from the weather and sanitary facilities.
They also lack tools for food production and clothing." The Lutheran World Federation, an ACT member, is working to improve access to water and sanitation, while Samaritan Purse, an international evangelical charity, is also distributing food in the settlement. The refugees have been walking day and night in search of safety, food and shelter, as the rebels capture territories in North Kivu.
Although rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda was indicted by International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2008, the Congolese government refused to arrest him, saying he was key to restoring stability in North Kivu.