ABOUT 70,000 refugees have fled over the border of the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into Uganda, causing a
humanitarian crisis there, aid agencies say.
Mohammed Adar, the repre-sentative in Uganda of UNHCR, the UN's
refugee agency, said it was "an extraordinarily swift and
concerning influx of refugees into an area with very limited
preparedness to extend humanitarian assistance to such a large
number of people." They would mount an initial response as quickly
as possible, while preparing for "an enhanced operation". An appeal
has also been launched by Tearfund and other aid agencies to get
emergency supplies to the area.
Even before the arrival of these refugees, Uganda was home to
more than 210,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers, 63 per
cent of whom come from the DRC.
The DRC has been riven with fighting between government forces
and different rebel groups since 2003. There has been further heavy
fighting this week near Goma, in the eastern DRC, between
government forces and the M23 rebels. The UN has said that it is
prepared to use "lethal force" to protect civilians if the M23
advances on Goma.
The Anglican Church in the DRC is running a project in Goma to
support women and girls rejected by their families after being
subjected to sexual assaults and rape. Rape as a weapon in the
conflict is "widespread", the UN says. The Church has asked for
prayers for civilians caught up in the conflict.