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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 23:36 GMT
DR Congo's endless suffering
Goma residents walking on lava
More aid is urgently needed for DR Congo's victims
By Mark Dummett in Kinshasa

The destruction of large parts of the town Goma by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo last week is just the latest tragedy to have struck the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years.


The only way we are really going to help these people is by finding a durable solution for the war

Adrianus Spijkers
UN food agency
Impoverished already by decades of insecurity, corruption and mismanagement, DR Congo has been devastated by a three and half year conflict which involves soldiers from at six other African countries.

The war has cut DR Congo into at least three rival territories, destroyed schools, hospitals and roads and killed off most commerce.

Government and rebel leaders have filled their pockets from DR Congo's vast mineral riches, and reinvested little.

Hunger and disease

The human suffering has been appalling.

In eastern DR Congo, even in the hills that overlook Goma, a brutal war involving the Rwandan army, numerous Congolese militias and Rwandan rebels responsible for the 1994 genocide, has displaced an estimated two million people.

Aid agencies say malnutrition and largely preventable diseases have killed a similar number.

DRC refugees fleeing volcano
Aid agencies say help to DR Congo is too little too late
Even in the regions where a United Nations-monitored cease-fire has brought peace, life is tough.

In Sankuru district in the centre of the country, the war prevents businessmen from the outside coming in and buying up the large stocks of rice sitting in warehouses and storerooms.

The rice is badly needed elsewhere in the country, while in Sankuru, people can no longer afford to buy such basics as soap and salt.

Bad news

Many people in the capital Kinshasa are asking themselves when the bad news is going to end.


We want peace and we want change, but it just never seems to happen

Newspaper vendor, Kamo

"First it was the war. There have been many deaths and lots of families have been lost.
And now it is the volcano," Micheline Nzala said.

"What's happening to our country? Why is it always the Congolese who suffer?" she asks.

Kamo, a newspaper vendor, thinks God has deserted the country. "It just is not fair. We want peace and we want change, but it just never seems to happen."

Victims

Aid agency Oxfam has pointed out that while the international community has mobilised itself to help the victims of Goma's volcanic eruption, it has largely stood by and watched as the wider DR Congolese tragedy has unfolded.

"The world will undoubtedly be generous in helping the homeless and bereaved people here," Oxfam director Barbara Stocking told the press in Goma.

But this sort of generosity and any interest at all has been lacking over the past years of war and suffering, she said.

A UN appeal of $200m in aid for 2002 has so far received nothing, while last year's appeal received only 60% the amount it asked for.

As a result, more than a million displaced people are getting no assistance whatsoever, reports Oxfam.

But Adrianus Spijkers, representative of the UN's food agency in Congo, believes that the international attention now being focused on Goma can only be a good thing for the country.

"We have to put the spotlight on Congo, and explain the background to the crisis," he said.

"Of course we need an SOS for Goma - but the only way we are really going to help these people is by finding a durable solution for the war."

See also:

24 Jan 02 | Africa
Second volcano 'erupts in Congo'
23 Jan 02 | Africa
Relief reaches volcano victims
22 Jan 02 | Health
Medical emergency in Goma
23 Jan 02 | Africa
Goma: Eruption aftermath
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