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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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HEAL Africa Staff Update - December 16, 2008

Richard Malengule- Legal Adviser and Training officer, Gender and Justice Program

We would like to thank the all-mighty God who protects us among and during this painful situation that has paralyzed the everyday life of thousands of Congolese citizens in the East of the DRC since many years now, but particularly since October 2008. Families and individuals have deeply been affected by this overwhelming situation. Thanks to the determination and support from good-will people from all over the world, HEAL Africa staff has provided relief and assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) from the Rutshuru and Lubero territories in eastern DRC.

Since the last escalation of violence in October, the situation is not completely quiet, especially in rural areas surrounding Goma where most of armed group soldiers are operating without any control. The beginning of political discussions between the government and the eastern rebels last week has reduced the ever-present fear that Goma will be attacked. Unfortunately these discussions didn?t offer much hope. Any important decision was not taken. Nothing is really known about the follow-up of these preliminary discussions.

The absence of fighting these last days and the pursuit of surveillance operations by the MONUC have encouraged some IDPs to return in their dwellings. Some families that fled away due to insecurity have started coming back home in the city of Kanyabayonga, a village located at 150 km north from Goma town.

The same movement of return has been noticed in Kayna, a village located at 200 km north from Goma, in the territory of Lubero. But, they are facing enormous difficulties. Most houses of Kanyabayonga, Kayna and Kirumbas had been robbed and looted seriously by the armed men who carried away mattress, covers, kitchen utensils and many other things of high value.

Given that the majority of families in these rural areas rely on and live mainly from agricultural activities, they don?t have enough to live on: nothing to eat, nor what to clothe themselves as they don't have access to their fields. Their fields are simply occupied by armed groups. Until today, many schools have not yet opened their doors because their administrative offices have been looted.

The situation of women and children is very troubling and critical. In this uncontrolled situation, cases of sexual violence and abuses have increased, unfortunately without any accurate report for sufficient and efficient assistance to survivors. Some areas are difficult to reach and no one knows exactly what is happening.

The HEAL Africa staff has been deployed out to difficult to access areas to bring aid and medication to certain rural health structures. We also agreed to collect some contributions (funds, clothes, foods and whatever) from the HEAL personnel to assist our local partners from the rural areas affected by the conflict.

In my point of view, I really wish that these political discussions that started between the government and rebels lead to the restoration of a lasting peace. This war doesn't have any deep social justification other than serving the hidden interests. The suffering generated by the recent and previous atrocities here in North Kivu province has reached its roof. We think that all efforts of lobbying and advocacy should lead to put an end to this war that doesn't have anything to do with the deep longings of the Congolese people.

Peace, and only peace, is the ultimate solution and deep desire of hundreds of thousands of families and individuals who have been unwillingly relocated from their homelands and are now spending their nights outside completely deprived of their human dignity.
Please, pray for us. We need peace!!!
With the Lord, We shall overcome?

Richard Malengule