Top UN aid official to visit DR Congo, Uganda and southern Sudan

30 August 2006 – Although the troubled eastern half of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has made some progress recently, there have also been serious setbacks and donor funding falls way below local needs, the United Nations’ most senior humanitarian official said today.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that the humanitarian needs in the eastern DRC are probably greater than anywhere else in the world as he announced he would visit central Africa next week.

As many as 500,000 people have become newly displaced this year alone, he said, although last month’s historic national presidential and parliamentary elections – the first in 45 years – offered an opportunity for a break from the cycle of violence.

After arriving in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, Mr. Egeland is scheduled to visit the eastern provinces of Katanga, North and South Kivu, and Ituri. He said he would meet some of the newly displaced, as well as rape victims and people who have returned to the DRC as the country tries to put years of civil war behind it.

Mr. Egeland told reporters that “the jury is still out” on whether the international community can set matters right in the eastern DRC, scene of some of the worst atrocities during the civil war.

Only about one-third of the money sought in the UN’s humanitarian appeal for the DRC has been provided, forcing the UN to grant the country about $38 million – more than for any other country – from its Central Emergency Response Fund.

He said one of the key messages he would send out during his trip would be that the culture of impunity for rebel and militia leaders must end in the DRC.

Mr. Egeland, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will then travel to Uganda before finishing his tour in Juba, southern Sudan, where peace talks involving the Ugandan Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are taking place. Last weekend the LRA and Uganda signed a cessation of hostilities agreement to end their 20-year conflict in the north of the nation.

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