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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Congo in dire trouble, say agencies
Children in Kalemies main hospital
Two out of five children are dying in infancy
A group of aid agencies working in the Democratic Republic of Congo has issued a report, saying that the war has led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

What is being done right now is so minuscule that it's not even a drop in the ocean

Vincent Lalai
Oxfam

It also says that the assistance being provided by the international community is not nearly enough to prevent the deaths and suffering of millions of people.

The report, issued by Save the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid, paints a bleak picture.

It says that 16 million Congolese are going hungry, more than two million have been displaced by the war and in some parts of the country, two out of five children are dying in infancy.

Inadequate

Despite the scale of the suffering, Oxfam's Vincent Lalai says the response from the international community has been totally inadequate.

Report recommendations
Safe passage for civilians and aid workers
Better UN coordination of relief effort
Increased aid
Prioritise needs of women, children
Use aid to encourage peace
"What is being done right now is so minuscule that it's not even a drop in the ocean - that would be exaggerating even more. It has to be much, much, much more," he said.

Peter Hawkins of Save the Children UK said that children were bearing the brunt of the conflict.

"In parts of the country, once known for exporting food, malnutrition rates for children under five have reached 30% and in the east of the country infant mortality rates are estimated to have reached 41%," he said.

The scale of the crisis has only become apparent since the warring parties agreed to observe a ceasefire earlier this year.

Once the fighting stopped, aid agencies were able to get to parts of the country which had previously been inaccessible.

UK role

A group of British MPs has just finished a fact-finding mission in Congo on behalf of the three charities which launched the report.

One said he was shocked to see a country going backwards so quickly.

UK Minister Clare Short
UK Minister Clare Short is visiting DR Congo
He said he kept meeting Congolese children who wanted to go to school, but there were no schools to go to.

About 40% of children receive no schooling, according to the report, with more than 10,000 child soldiers estimated to be fighting in the conflict.

UK Secretary of State for International Cooperation Clare Short is currently in Kinshasa and is due to hold talks with Congolese ministers and President Joseph Kabila.

She will also be meeting the Kinshasa based representatives of the British aid organisations who released the report before visiting the rebel-held towns of Kisangani and Gbadolite to assess the living conditions of civilians there.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Vincent Lalai of Oxfam
"Over 18 million are in dire need of food"
British MP Andrew Ramsbotham
"It's going rapidly downhill"
See also:

06 Aug 01 | Africa
UK minister to push Congo peace
21 Jun 01 | Africa
In pictures: Historic Congo trip
30 May 01 | Africa
UN optimistic over Congo
20 Apr 01 | Africa
Congo rebels allow UN to deploy
28 Feb 01 | Africa
Troops withdraw from DR Congo
06 Aug 01 | Africa
Kinshasa's grave concerns
01 Aug 01 | Africa
Congo's coltan rush
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