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Congo: Caritas record grim conditions, rise in number of rapes

 Caritas in Goma is carrying out assessments on the numbers of victims of sexual violence in the current unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Caritas team in Goma reported 39 cases of rape in one day ­ ten of which took place in the Mugunga camp.

As insecurity in eastern Congo deteriorates, many women are at risk of attack as they venture out to find wood so they can cook food.

Meanwhile, Caritas has begun distributing food rations in eastern Congo to 64,000 people who have fled their homes to escape recent violence.

Hundreds of thousands of people are facing hunger, disease and brutality as rebel forces work their way across North Kivu, bringing with them a wave of killing, rape and destruction.

"The situation is devastating," says Lulu Mitshabu, from Caritas Australia. "No one can definitely say how many people in total have fled their homes because of violence, but it is clearly over one million."

A fragile ceasefire brokered last week has collapsed as rebels and Congolese troops have taken up arms again.

Caritas is currently distributing ten days' worth of food rations provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in four camps to the west of Goma. The rations consist of maize flour, peas, vegetable oil and salt.

Ms Mitshabu said: "the situation is desperate for many of the people in and around Goma. Camps are overcrowded and cases of cholera have already been reported. Medical supplies are very low, we have reports of 800 people sharing just one water tap, the latrines are overflowing and hygiene is virtually nonexistent".

Insecurity has made assessments and aid delivery difficult, with some agencies suspending operations. In some cases camps have been destroyed and the occupants have fled into the bush, fearing for their lives.

For the hundreds of thousands of people of Congo who have left their homes and are living in fear, simple things such as food, water, blankets and a dry, safe place to sleep are no longer guaranteed.

Source: Caritas Australia