NEW YORK, Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- International humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide calls for stronger protection of civilians and safe access to deliver humanitarian assistance after rebel forces besieged Goma, the capital city of North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo today.
The violence is likely to forcibly displace thousands and threatens to trigger a humanitarian crisis if aid organizations are not able to reach those most affected by the fighting. Concern directly witnessed armed groups targeting civilians when fighting erupted west of Goma in Masisi territory.
"I saw houses being systematically burned in various villages in Masisi in order to forcibly displace families," said Paul O'Brien, Concern Worldwide Overseas Director, who just returned from North Kivu. "I heard small arms fire, including rocket-propelled grenades, on two successive days and nights and witnessed families—mostly women and children—moving to various locations to escape from one armed group or another."
Concern has approximately 45 local and international staff based in eastern DRC. Heavy fighting has forced all of them to leave their offices in Goma and Masisi. "We have evacuated Concern's staff for their own safety, but this in turn means they cannot help the people affected by this crisis," said O'Brien. "The rapidly deteriorating security situation has greatly impeded Concern's work with those who were already displaced since this most recent conflict began in April 2012."
The current conflict originated in April 2012 when the 23 March rebel movement (M23) formed in response to what they perceived as failure on the part of the Congolese government to effectively implement the March 2009 peace agreement signed by the government and the CNDP (National Council for the Defence of the People). Violence between M23 and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) has ensued, along with a massive displacement of people.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that as of October, 2.4 million people were internally displaced in DRC—800,000 in North Kivu alone.
Concern has worked in the North Kivu and Katanga provinces of DRC since 1994 with a current focus on water, sanitation, food, and building critical infrastructure. In May, Concern started to target approximately 46,300 people, many of whom are internally displaced, with non-food items as well as cash vouchers and transfers and cash-for-work opportunities.
Concern Worldwide is an international, non-governmental humanitarian organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty, with more than 3,200 personnel working in 25 of the world's poorest countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Concern Worldwide targets the root causes of extreme poverty through programs in health, education, livelihoods and microfinance, HIV and AIDS, and emergency response, directly reaching more than 9.5 million people. For more information, please visit concernusa.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
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SOURCE Concern Worldwide US