DRC: Help victims of sexual violence among expelled Congolese, OCHA says
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
NAIROBI, 28 April (PLUSNEWS) - Tens of thousands of Congolese expelled from Angola may be in need of psychological support and health care following reports of systematic sexual violence they underwent upon their expulsion, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Tuesday.
"OCHA calls for an increase in the capacity of health partners already working on the ground and the financing of new partners with expertise in sexual violence and the prevention and transmission of HIV/AIDS," the agency said in a report on the initial conclusions of a 23 April inter-agency monitoring mission to Kahungula, in the southwestern province of Bandundu.
Kahungula is one of the five border crossings into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the diamond mine workers and their families being expelled from Angola.
The OCHA report, based on information provided by the OCHA team in the Congo, said new arrivals had reported abuses at the hands of Angolan armed forces - including sexual violence and theft.
"Under the pretext of searching for hidden diamonds, Angolan military agents have reportedly sexually abused women and girls," OCHA reported. "In addition to the psychological trauma caused, risk of HIV/AIDS infection and other sexually transmissible diseases is high as military agents are reportedly using unsanitary methods for internal body cavity searches of both men and women."
At the same time, OCHA reported that emergency aid for the expelled 67,000-plus Congolese, was still needed as soon as possible, although the humanitarian situation for thousands expelled from Angola over the past weeks may be stabilising in at least one affected zone.
Angolan authorities began to expel illegal immigrants from the country in December 2003, targeting illegal workers in its diamond mines near the border with the DRC. OCHA reported that the Congolese were being expelled from the provinces of Malange, Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Kwanza Sul.
"To reach the border, many are forced to walk days. The weak and young are left behind to their fate. Upon arrival in Congo, hungry, tired and destitute, no transport is available to take them to their final destinations," OCHA reported.
It reported that transport assistance was needed as two trucks used by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kahemba, Bandundu Province, were inadequate.
A shipment of relief aid arrived in the capital, Kinshasa, on Sunday from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, Italy. Items include blankets, generators, boats and jerry cans, and will be distributed by the UN Children's Fund, OCHA reported.
[The OCHA report is available online at: www.reliefweb.int]