|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator on Democratic Republic of Congo
An estimated 30 per cent of those requiring humanitarian assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was not being reached, said a top United Nations humanitarian official today at a New York Headquarters press conference, urging the international community to take steps towards improving access in that central African nation.
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg, briefed correspondents after completing a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this month. A major concern, she said, was the widespread violence that continued to be perpetrated by armed groups against civilians. The attacks had forced thousands of civilians, many living in remote areas of Orientale, Equateur and North and South Kivu provinces, to live in fear of rape, maiming, looting and the burning of houses.
At the same time, limited access stymied delivery of humanitarian assistance to those victims — and to those who had fled their homes, she said, citing the country’s vastness and lack of roads as main obstacles facing aid workers. “It’s simply very difficult to move from one place to another,” she explained, adding, “the isolation of many of the affected villages is a major challenge”.
During her five-day visit, Ms. Bragg had met with humanitarian personnel and visited with displaced families at a camp in the north-eastern town of Dungu, where she said she had heard personal accounts of the brutal violence that had caused thousands of Congolese civilians to leave their homes. In the Kivu provinces alone, she said, about 1.2 million people remained displaced due to attacks and insecurity. Despite those challenges, however, the situation continued to evolve, with 600,000 people having returned to South Kivu in the past year. That influx was a “testimony to the massive humanitarian enterprise” that was managing to address the needs of civilians despite the major obstacles.
However, she urged the international community to do more to stabilize the situation and facilitate humanitarian access. “We need to revisit our analysis of security and seek ways that allow us to stay, rather than to leave,” she said. Of benefit would be stabilization and development initiatives, such as building roads and schools and implementing water schemes, and support for the Government as it bolstered local administration and police capacity in remote areas. Additionally, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), together with the humanitarian community, should work to replicate good practices that had helped to stabilize the situation in the Kivu provinces in recent years, she said.
Adding that she had been deeply touched by the resilience of the Congolese people, Ms. Bragg stressed that it was critical to provide humanitarian aid to those who had “endured so much”. “As humanitarians, we cannot end the suffering of the people, but we have to continuously do more to limit it,” she said.
Responding to a question about a recent Security Council discussion on extending MONUSCO’s mandate — which is set to expire at the end of this month — Ms. Bragg said that peacekeepers were “absolutely necessary” to maintaining stability in the country. She had been meeting with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, she said, to increase the Mission’s presence in remote areas. “It’s about reassignment, rather than increasing numbers,” she added.
One correspondent, drawing attention to the situation in the Sudan, asked whether the United Nations had pulled its staff out of that country’s South Kordofan state, following violent clashes in recent weeks. That report was false, said Ms. Bragg, although some staff had been relocated and others were unable to leave their compound. “There is continued humanitarian service there, though it is limited at the moment,” she explained.
* *** *For information media • not an official record