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Food aid reaches Congo rebel town

A displaced child at a camp outside Goma
Thousands of people are living in flimsy shelters because of the unrest

The UN has managed to send a convoy of badly-needed food aid across the front-line in eastern DR Congo to the rebel-held town of Rutshuru.

The World Food Programme delivered a tonne of high-energy biscuits for children and said it hoped to send more convoys to the area on Friday.

Some 250,000 people have fled violence that flared in August between rebel and government forces.

The UN peacekeeping head has asked for 3,000 more troops to protect civilians.

There are 9,000 UN peacekeepers in the region, out of 17,000 nationwide.

The UN mission in DR Congo, Monuc, is its largest peace force in the world, but its leader says there are not enough troops to protect people from violence.

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BBC discovers 1,500 displaced people in DR Congo camp

The latest crisis began when rebels loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda advanced towards Goma, the capital of North Kivu, which is now ringed with refugee camps.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a ceasefire to allow aid workers to reach 100,000 refugees cut off in rebel-held areas north of Goma.

FORCES AROUND GOMA
UN peacekeepers in the DR Congo
CNDP: Gen Nkunda's Tutsi rebels - 6,000 fighters
FDLR: Rwandan Hutus - 6,000-7,000
Mai Mai: pro-government militia - 3,500
Monuc: UN peacekeepers - 6,000 in North Kivu, including about 1,000 in Goma, and 5,000 in South Kivu (17,000 nationwide)
DRC army - 90,000 (nationwide)
Source: UN, military experts

All sides were notified about the UN food convoy ahead of the delivery.

Other deliveries are being made around the town of Goma, drawing on a shipment of 65 tonnes of food that arrived in Goma on Wednesday.

But the BBC's Mark Doyle says many have received no significant food aid.

Two hours' drive south of Goma he found 1,700 displaced people outside Minova town.

They were living in shelters made from bent sticks hung with the leaves of banana trees, which our correspondent says served as a hopelessly flimsy roof against often torrential rains and the biting cold of the night.

There were no aid workers at the makeshift camp.

He says at least four children have died in this camp in recent days. Tumu Sabire, 30, says her two-year-old son died from malnutrition.

"I have no food because I ran from the war," she said.

The baby's name was Musaade, which means "help" in Swahili, our reporter says.

Rwandan soldiers

Meanwhile, Britain's Financial Times newspaper says soldiers from the Rwandan army have been fighting alongside the dissident general Laurent Nkunda.

Displaced people tap into a supply of water aid nearby the Nyiragongo volcano in Kibati

Their reporter in eastern DR Congo interviewed former rebels and observers who said some soldiers were continuing to receive their Rwandan salaries while fighting with the general.

Rwanda denies backing the rebel leader, who claims to be fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attacks by Rwandan Hutu rebels who fled to DR Congo after Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

The Congolese government has often promised to stop the Hutu forces from using its territory, but has not done so.

On Monday, Gen Nkunda threatened to take over the whole country if President Joseph Kabila's government continued in its refusal to negotiate with him.

But a Congolese official said the government was still unwilling to talk to the rebel leader and accused him of war crimes.

The UN has accused both sides of war crimes during the latest violence.

Mr Kabila was elected president in 2006 in polls that were backed by the UN, and which international observers generally declared to be fair.

Map of eastern DR Congo



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