Lutherans Assist Refugees in Eastern Zaire

10/25/1996 12:00:00 AM


Action by Churches Together (ACT) reports unrest and serious
displacement of people in South Kivu, Eastern Zaire.  Up to
250,000 refugees are reported to have fled 12 camps in South
Kivu.  ACT is a worldwide network of church organizations,
including the Lutheran World Federation, meeting human need
through coordinated emergency response.  ACT has made an appeal
for $1.3 million to aid displaced people in the Great Lakes
region of East Africa.  ACT says the refugees are Hutus from
Rwanda and Burundi and are now moving north toward Bukavu.  The
situation there has been tense for several weeks with increasing
Zairian military presence and road blocks in the streets.
According to ACT, a large influx of refugees to the Bukavu area
will increase tension and strain available resources there.  The
flight of refugees from Uvira, which began Oct. 20, follows
recent fights between Zairian army units and local Tutsi groups,
including attacks at refugee camps and a hospital in the Uvira
area.  ACT's partners in the region have started work on
contingency plans in case the situation worsens.  Fighting around
Goma (farther north) Oct. 19 increased tension and may signal
further unrest and displacement.  Should more fights break out
across Eastern Zaire (involving forces across the border to
Rwanda) the number of displaced refugees could double or triple
on a short notice.  A field hospital at Nyangezi, just south of
Bakavu, is operated by ACT, Norwegian Church Aid and a local
agency.  Staff there report a very difficult security and supply
situation in the area.  Bukavu is practically cut off from
overland routes and only holds food and medicine for a few days.
Based on what is available preparations are being made by ACT and
other agencies to cover basic needs of the refugees.  Further
north in Eastern Zaire armed conflict and deteriorating security
situation has been reported over the last days with a focus on
fighting in the border region between Zaire, Uganda and Rwanda
cutting off the main supply road for humanitarian assistance to
the camps near Goma. ACT staff present in the area reports Goma
town quiet but roads impassable because of land mines.  The
Lutheran World Federation is a worldwide communion of 122 member
churches, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service,
(312) 380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir.,
(312) 380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG


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