ACT Int'l Raises Flags on Eastern DRC Conflict, Displacement

The humanitarian situation in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains critical, reports a global alliance of churches and related agencies.

More than 1.8 million people are still displaced in DRC, noted Action by Churches Together International, referring to figures reported in the 2010 humanitarian plan of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Meanwhile, human rights abuses remain common and especially target women and children.

According to U.N. OCHA 2010, one woman in DRC's South Kivu province is raped every two hours. Other common abuses include extortion, kidnapping, looting, recruitment of children by armed groups and anti-personnel mine explosions.

"Psychosocial support for survivors of human rights violations, especially rape, is identified as a critical part of future response," the alliance reported.

Since the 1994 genocide in nearby Rwanda spilled war across the border and ethnic Rwandan Hutu militias sought refuge in Congo, the DRC has been mired in conflict.

So intense has the conflict been that some have dubbed it the world's deadliest since World War II, and credited it for some 5.4 million deaths. Though some say the widely referred-to figure is questionable, there is indisputably a very large number of people reaping the consequences of conflict, including the young IDPs and returnees who are today suffering from abuse, depression, irresponsible behavior and mental illness.

Food shortages are common in DRC, mainly due to livestock looting and inaccessibility to farms for cultivation due to prevailing insecurity.

Host families for both IDPs and returnees, meanwhile, are burdened, resulting in loss of productive assets as they share the little food and shelter they have. Households use various coping mechanisms, some of them harmful, resulting to malnutrition amongst children in the community, ACT International noted.

To continue the emergency response, ACT members in DRC are drafting a new appeal to reach out to more than 10,000 households of displaced people, returnees and malnourished children.

In coordination with international agencies and local authorities, they will provide non-food items, agricultural support (seeds, tools, livestock), psychosocial support, school rehabilitation, access to clean potable water and shelter (support to rebuild burnt houses).