ACT members step up advocacy and aid in DRC

Friday, November 23, 2012 • by Mara Caputo

ACT members have been working around the clock to craft a unified strategy to address the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the strategically critical eastern town of Goma fell to rebels on Tuesday, November 20th.

Several ACT members have taken significant steps both to expand aid efforts on the ground and to speak out on the political dynamics that have hampered the creation of a sustainable peace in the region, which could go a long way to mitigate the large-scale humanitarian suffering.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) estimates that an additional 140,000 people have been displaced in and around Goma in recent days. Since April of this year alone, 750,000 Congolese have been uprooted by fighting between government forces and the splinter rebel group, M23.

Earlier this week The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), one of ACT’s founding members, deployed additional staff from its Nairobi-based regional emergency hub to help scale-up its coordinated humanitarian efforts with other ACT members in the DRC. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has announced that it will provide water and sanitation assistance as part of a coordinated ACT response to the worsening crisis.

LWF is currently working in the areas of water, sanitation, hygiene and food security in the Rwamwanja refugee camp in Uganda, with monitoring, assessment and communications assistance from Dan Church Aid (DCA) and financial support from FinnChurchAid, the Inter-Church Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Church of Sweden and DCA.

Members are assisting more than 30,000 refugees in the camp and in host communities in Uganda. Diakonia Sweden is also supporting the Church of Uganda and the Uganda Joint Christian Council's conflict mitigation efforts between the refugee and national populations.

On the advocacy front

ACT members have also been active on the advocacy front this week. LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge issued a statement on Wednesday, November 21st, calling for humanitarian aid agencies to be granted safe access inside Goma and throughout the DRC.

The same day Christian Aid called on the British government to step up its efforts to help resolve the conflict. Chantal Daniels, Christian Aid’s policy and advocacy advisor for Central Africa, expressed “a desperate need for the UK government to clearly position itself and to actively push for solutions for the current military and humanitarian crisis in the DRC.”

As part of the European Network for Central Africa, ACT members Christian Aid, ICCO, Diakonia Sweden and NCA, urged the European Union to increase pressure on countries supporting the M23 rebels in a statement issued on Tuesday, November 20th. The final version of a UN report by an independent panel of experts outlining Rwanda’s financial support for the M23 forces was released the same day.

The Network’s statement, among other points, urged the appointment of a special envoy under the auspices of the African Union and the UN to launch a political process to end the violence.

“ACT members have a long, committed history to working with the people of central Africa,” said Rev. Dr. Rebecca Larson, ACT’s deputy general secretary and director of programmes.

“We’re monitoring the DRC situation on several fronts – on the humanitarian level and in terms of ongoing international and regional efforts to resolve the political crisis – with an eye to how a coordinated response among our members can be most efficiently and expediently executed.”