* UNICEF: Humanitarian crisis continues as fragile peace sets in for the DRC
* 19 Sept 2007
Displaced and destitute. Recent fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has left a humanitarian crisis. Thousands have been helped already – families have been registered, children vaccinated against deadly diseases and cooking utensils, food and basic shelter have been provided; latrines and clean running water have kept illness down to a minimum.
But the flood of humanity fleeing conflict has meant aid agencies and government authorities are not been able to keep up. Many walked for days to get to these safe camps outside Goma, shaping bush and branches into makeshift homes.
16 year old Pascaline was heavily pregnant when she and her family were forced to flee. She went into labour on the road, found shelter from the pouring rain and gave birth to a healthy girl. Seeing the new born baby and young mother, Josephine took pity on the family and opened her home to them. 17 people live here now.
SOUNDBITE (Swahili) Josephine Ndalemwa, Head of host family:
“I saw this family and the young mother and her tiny baby were completely soaked from the rain and I felt really sorry for them and took them in.”
The main victims of the renewed fighting are children. This young boy was shot leaving his home. Brought here by an NGO worker, his leg was saved. The main goal of UNICEF’s partner Heal Africa is to help rape survivors. A mobile clinic is loaded up with medicines and heads out to volatile areas where women are most vulnerable.
Young boys are particularly at risk. Once fighting was their thing, now it’s football. At this transit centre for children recruited by armed forces, they get their playfulness back, caring for rabbits and being cared for themselves. Celestin too was shot and had just been brought in MONUC, the UN forces here.
SOUNDBITE(Swahili) “Celestin”, 13-year-old:
Fears of re-recruitment mean these children won’t be united until peace holds. Villages have emptied out in the fighting. For now MONUC and Congolese government forces are in control of the town of Sake. But ongoing insecurity threatens children most.
SOUNDBITE (English) Colonel Chand Saroha, Commanding Officer MONUC:
“Nkunda’s forces, Mayi mayi and FDLR also, we have seen children in all these three groups, all these commanders, they generally try to lure children to pick up arms.”
For now a tenuous peace is holding but the crisis in eastern DR Congo remains on the edge.
This is Sarah Crowe in Goma reporting for UNCEF Television