Church responds to deepening crisis in conflict-torn Congo

By agency reporter
November 26, 2008

Tearfund’s church partner agencies are delivering lifesaving food, water, shelter and emergency medical supplies to some of the tens of thousands of families affected by the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the upsurge in fighting in recent weeks, adding to more than one million who have already been displaced by the conflict.

Tearfund, which has worked in the country for nearly 20 years, has launched an urgent fundraising appeal to help people get the help they desperately need.

Among those who have already received vital aid from Tearfund’s partners are 300 displaced pregnant women and children in rebel-held territory north of Goma. They fled with nothing other than the clothes they were wearing, and many of them have been left traumatised by their ordeal.

HEAL Africa found these vulnerable women and gave them clothes and blankets, which are crucial for their well-being and survival.

HEAL Africa’s Choisir la Vie (Choose Life) programme has also provided emergency food supplies to people at an internally displaced person (IDP) camp in Masisi, west of Goma.

Tearfund’s, Alice Fay, who is in Congo to assess people’s needs, recently visited a make-shift camp outside a church, which is now home to ten thousand people. There she met a family of seven who live in a shelter made of branches and leaves and share one bed.

Alice said: “We’d been expecting to see people living in the church, but the scale of what we saw was greater than what we’d imagined. This was the first we had seen for ourselves anything of the situation on the ground. It was truly shocking.

“We later met with a pastor. He urged us: ‘If you get the chance to talk to people in the outside world, ask them to pray for peace. We need peace above all and the displaced people want to go home’.”

Tearfund’s International Director, Peter Grant, said: “Thousands of innocent people have been caught up in the conflict and are living in desperate conditions – they urgently need our help.

“Tearfund and its partner agencies are doing all we can to ease their plight and with your support, we will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.”

Tearfund is also engaging in advocacy. Through an All Party Parliamentary Group, the aid agency supports calls for actions that aim to stop the war, encourage warring parties to enter into a dialogue and respect human rights, and increase pressure on neighbouring countries to refrain from supporting rebels.

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