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Congo: We need peace above everything

Amid ongoing deadly conflict here, a new cease-fire agreement finally sparks hope for peace in the country’s war-weary east.

February 21, 2008



Uwimana carries a relief package she received from World Vision that includes clothing for her children.
Uwimana carries a relief package she received from World Vision that includes clothing for her children. "We thank World Vision!" she says. "As this is the rainy season, and water has been flowing into my tent, my children now have jackets to shield them from the cold."
© 2008 Horeb Bulambo/World Vision
"I was coming home from farming with my children, carrying my basket, when we met a group of armed men," says a sobbing Uwimana. "Four of them raped me."

When the mother of four finally arrived home, neighbors told the grief-stricken woman that rebels had murdered her husband.

Fearing for the lives of her children, Uwimana fled her village to one of the many squalid, informal resettlement camps that have materialized in recent years across the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a place where countless tragic stories like this are a way of life, World Vision continually seeks to provide critical aid to the most vulnerable who are affected. But most of all, our staff members in the DRC and worldwide are praying for a sustained peace to bring an end to this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Peace agreement

This map shows the Democratic Republic of Congo and the areas affected by ongoing violence, including North Kivu province and the city of Goma in the east. The DRC's location within the African continent is also shown here. Image courtesy of Reuters AlertNet.
This map shows the Democratic Republic of Congo and the areas affected by ongoing violence, including North Kivu province and the city of Goma in the east. The DRC's location within the African continent is also shown here. Image courtesy of Reuters AlertNet.

Uwimana is just one among hundreds of thousands in this part of Africa's heartland who have endured unspeakable atrocities, caught in the crosshairs of the world's deadliest conflict since World War II. To hear her story is to understand the depths of relief experienced by survivors of this vicious conflict since receiving news of a peace agreement. It signifies a key step toward restoring stability in the region.

The deal, described as "historic" by one observer, was signed in the eastern Congolese city of Goma on Jan. 23. It includes an immediate cease-fire and the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in 13 key locations, according to the BBC. The new deal also provides for disengagement of troops and the creation of a buffer zone — provisions that many hope will bring to an end the bloodshed in this beleaguered region.

Talks involving the government and more than 20 rebel groups lasted more than two weeks and were sponsored by the United States, the European Union, and the African Union, the British news organization reported.

"The U.S. government played a big part in making this important conference happen," says Rory E. Anderson, World Vision's deputy director of advocacy and U.S. government relations. "It is essential, however, that the international community stay engaged in this process so that there will be real peace in DRC and across [Africa's] Great Lakes region."

Welcome news

The news couldn't come soon enough. In the past 15 months, armed conflict in the eastern DRC has resulted in the massive displacement of people — more than 400,000 in North Kivu province, including Uwimana and her children — as well as increased gender-based violence, malnutrition among children, school dropout rates, and rising numbers of wounded civilians.

In response to the staggering humanitarian crisis, World Vision continues to oversee several projects to assist war-displaced children and families in DRC's eastern region.

Our office there coordinates health, nutrition, and food-security projects, as well as a UNICEF-funded psychosocial project to assist those emotionally traumatized by the war. We also have established a child-protection project for 50,000 children, and our team is constructing 200 latrines to meet sanitation needs in the Masisi area.

Congo war facts:

  • Since 1997, Congo's conflict-driven humanitarian crisis has claimed more than 5 million lives.
  • Some 45,000 Congolese die every month from war-related causes — mostly from disease and starvation.
  • According to the 2005 World Health Organization report, at least 40,000 girls and women have been raped.

Source: Reuters AlertNet

'We thank World Vision'

Late last month, World Vision's DRC staff distributed survival kits to 6,000 displaced families in North Kivu province, as well as clothing for more than 8,000 children. Supplied by the German government, the survival kits contained two blankets, a water can, soap, and plastic sheeting for use as temporary shelter material.

World Vision plans to scale up its relief response in eastern DRC in the coming months, expanding services to those who remain displaced — particularly vulnerable women and children deeply affected by the conflict, including Uwimana and her family.

"Nongovernmental organizations are trying to do what they can," she concludes. "[But] we need peace above everything."

Hopefully, the recent accord will bring about stability that innocent civilians in this war-torn region long for and deserve.


Learn more


>> Read more about the DRC and what World Vision is doing to meet the needs of those affected by this tragic conflict.
>> Read "Congo: Portrait of a Forgotten Conflict," a feature article in the Winter 2007 edition of World Vision Magazine.
>> Check out this U.N. report about the rise in sexual violence in the DRC.

Three ways you can help

>> Pray for peace and stability in the DRC. Pray especially for aid groups, including World Vision, to successfully provide emotional and physical healing to survivors who have endured unspeakable atrocities.
>> Register now for Congo Lobby Day, which will be held March 30-April 1 in Washington, D.C. Speak out for peace in the DRC. World Vision is a sponsoring organization of this event.
>> Take action. U.S. leadership can help bring peace to the DRC. Join World Vision in asking members of Congress to contact the U.S. State Department to encourage efforts for peace in eastern DRC.

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Learn more

Read more about the DRC and what World Vision is doing to meet the needs of those affected by this tragic conflict.
- -
Read "Congo: Portrait of a Forgotten Conflict," a feature article in the Winter 2007 edition of World Vision Magazine.
- -
Check out this U.N. report about the rise in sexual violence in the DRC.

Three ways you can help

Pray for peace and stability in the DRC. Pray especially for aid groups, including World Vision, to successfully provide emotional and physical healing to survivors who have endured unspeakable atrocities.
- -

Register now for Congo Lobby Day, which will be held March 30-April 1 in Washington, D.C. Speak out for peace in the DRC. World Vision is a sponsoring organization of this event.
- -
Take action. U.S. leadership can help bring peace to the DRC. Join World Vision in asking members of Congress to contact the U.S. State Department to encourage efforts for peace in eastern DRC.

 





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