Scottish funds back vital aid work in war-torn Congo

By staff writers
March 18, 2009

The Scottish Government has given SCIAF £50,000 in emergency funding to help thousands of people affected by fighting in the eastern North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

SCIAF is the aid and development agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Scotland. The funding follows significant donations made by the Scottish public.

The historic links between Scotland and Africa have featured significantly in church, school and university programmes in recent years. The British Council has funded educational and cultural links, and the Department for International Development (DFID) has backed aid projects.

The grant, made available from the Government’s International Development Fund, is part of a £200,000 humanitarian aid package which has been shared between three key aid agencies working in the DRC. It will help to ease the suffering of thousands of people who fled from their homes to escape violent clashes between rebel forces and the Congolese army in 2008.

SCIAF and its local partner on the ground in North Kivu are providing blankets, temporary shelters, cooking utensils and medical supplies, as well as helping women and young girls who have been raped or subjected to violence.

SCIAF’s Chief Executive, Paul Chitnis explained: “The situation in the east of the DRC continues to be very difficult for the civilian population. This money will be invaluable in helping SCIAF and its local partner to continue its life-saving work helping some of the many thousands of innocent people who have been displaced by the recent fighting.

"The Scottish public has already donated an incredible £85,900 to SCIAF's DRC Appeal which is [already] helping to make a real difference. This additional funding from the Scottish Government is vital in enabling our work on the ground in North Kivu to continue."

Linda Fabiani, the Scottish Government Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture said: "As a responsible nation it is our duty to provide support, where we can, to those affected by humanitarian disasters. That is why we are providing this emergency funding in support of the vital work being undertaken by Scottish charities on the ground in the DRC.

"While there has been little recent media coverage of the crisis in the DRC it remains a desperate situation for the hundreds of thousands of people caught up in the conflict. Many people have been displaced and are living in makeshift camps with little or no facilities, clean water or food. This is a situation that needs immediate help to alleviate suffering and create greater security and stability for people in this region.”

More than a quarter of a million people fled from their homes and villages to escape violent clashes between the Congolese army and rebel fighters between August and December of last year. Many have been forced to live in temporary camps where few have access to medicines or clean water. Food is scarce and some desperate families are risking their lives to return to their fields in order to tend their crops. Women and girls are vulnerable to rape and sexual violence at the hands of rebel soldiers and the Congolese army.

SCIAF is helping to supply 32 local health organisations with medical supplies and support women who have been subjected to rape and sexual violence in North and South Kivu. The charity is also supporting long-term efforts for peace and calling on the UK government to do more to protect and care for women affected by sexual violence.

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