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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC steps up presence at victims' side

29-11-2007 News Release 07/124

Geneva (ICRC) – Following a sharp deterioration in the security situation in the province of North Kivu and a dramatic rise in the need for humanitarian aid there, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has decided to step up its operations in that part of the Congo.

The decision was announced by Dominik Stillhart, the organization's deputy director of operations, following a visit to the country during which he had talks with Congolese officials in Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu.

The upsurge in hostilities, which began in late August, has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. The fighting has been accompanied by serious violations of international humanitarian law by people bearing weapons. These acts have included rape, forced recruitment, pillaging of civilian property and destruction of infrastructure essential to the population's survival.

" The situation is extremely alarming, " said Stillhart. " Everyone taking part in an armed conflict is obliged to spare civilians, especially women and children. But in North Kivu once again they are the first to be harmed. " There is an enormous need, he said, for more to be done to promote the protection of civilians and to meet their material needs.

The ICRC has therefore decided to significantly expand its programmes to come to the victims'aid. The expansion will focus on helping displaced persons and on support for medical facilities treating war-wounded people.

Stepped up ICRC operations will enable delegates to remain at the side of the people affected by the violence and will help the organization maintain a consistent dialogue with all parties to the conflict, reminding them of their obligation under international humanitarian law to respect the lives and health of civilians. Under no circumstances may persons be attacked who are not taking part in the hostilities.

For further information, please contact:
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel : +41 79217 3217
  Danielle Larrabee, ICRC Goma, tel : +243 810 366 812