Mission Aviation Fellowship helps aid agencies reach Congo's needy

Mission Aviation Fellowship is helping aid agencies bring vital food and medical supplies to thousands of people in Congo displaced by more than a week of fighting between the government and rebel forces.

Some 200,000 displaced people have crammed into refugee camps or remain scattered across Congo's northern region after a number of raids on their villages by members of the guerrilla group, the Lord's Resistance Army. The Lord's Resistance Army has terrorised large parts of Congo, Uganda and Sudan for more than two decades, and is accused of murder, abduction, mutilation, the sexual enslavement of women and children, and recruiting children to be used as soldiers in its guerrilla campaigns.

Manager for research for MAF, Ron Wismer, said the organisation's operations had so far been unaffected by the latest outbreak of conflict and that it was braced to help aid efforts for fleeing refugees in the coming weeks.

The aid effort, which is supporting primarily international humanitarian group Medair, has hit upon a number of obstacles.

"Because of the remote location and the difficulty getting supplies in, it's very expensive to operate in the northeast part of the country. The high price of aviation gasoline adds to the cost of MAF relief efforts," Wismer noted.

He added that MAF was managing so far on its current staff levels but would need to look for more staff if requests came in to support refugees.

The organisation was forced to relocate its Congolese HQ to Bunia from Nyankunde after its base there was destroyed in tribal conflict six years ago. Now renewed violence in Bunia has forced the evacuation of two MAF missionary families out of the region.

Gloria Fernandez, head of mission for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said many humanitarian organisations had been forced to temporarily suspend operations and abandon their work stations while the conflict continues.

Congo's President, Joseph Kabila, is expected to take part in a crisis summit organised by the African Union in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, next week.