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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 15:12 GMT
UN warns of disaster in Congo
The United Nations warns of a humanitarian disaster in Congo Brazzaville's Pool region if food aid is not forthcoming.

Without extra assistance, aid stocks will be depleted in two or three months, the UN's World Food Programme says.

At the end of the day, the people paying the price are the Congolese

WFP's Guillaume Foliot
The world organisation is now seeking $60m over the next two years.

Part of the money would go to provide emergency assistance to about 150,000 people displaced by fighting in the Pool region near the capital, Brazzaville.

Fighting broke out last year between government forces and the so-called "Ninja" rebels in the Pool region.

'Poorest of the poorest'

Donors gave just one third of the five million dollars requested in a UN appeal for Congo in 2002.

"Donors have to choose their priorities - the famine in southern Africa and in the Horn, the looming crisis in Iraq," the WFP's representative in Congo, Guillaume Foliot, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Militia fighters in previous war
Congo has been unstable for many years

"But at the end of the day, the people paying the price are the Congolese," he said.

"If we don't get aid within four months, then we'll have to stop humanitarian assistance and people will no longer have the means to survive.

"This may imply an increase in prostitution and the fact that lactating mothers will not be able to feed their babies."

Mr Foliot said that so far, the WFP had not run out of food because it had decided to help "the poorest of the poorest" only.

Fearing for their lives

He said they would be able to continue giving assistance to 30,000 people in camps in Brazzaville and in the west of the Pool for the forthcoming month.

But he said that aid would then be cut down and that eventually all distributions would be suspended.

Ninja fighter
The Ninjas refused to sign a 1999 peace deal

Small groups of people are still arriving in the camps, he said, and the assumption is that they fear for their lives.

Access to the Pool has not been granted to humanitarian organisations because of concerns for their security.

The present conflict started when Ninja rebels attacked a passenger train in reprisals after the alleged dispatch of army reinforcements to the Pool.

The Ninjas belong to a rebel movement which refused to sign the 1999 peace agreement, which put an end to the civil war.

See also:

10 Oct 02 | Africa
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27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
22 Feb 02 | Africa
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