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  • Southside

Southsider awakes to sound of gunfire in Congo war zone

Tuesday, 6th February, 2018 1:00pm
Southsider awakes to sound of gunfire in Congo war zone

Mark Johnson has been caught up in a war zone.

Southsider awakes to sound of gunfire in Congo war zone

Mark Johnson has been caught up in a war zone.

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A SOUTHSIDER who works in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo has told how he has been woken up by the terrifying noise of gunfire.

Mark Johnson (32), from Goatstown, has been caught up in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises erupting in 2018.

Over 13 million people are in need of aid while 4.3 million have been displaced by the ongoing conflict.

A cholera outbreak has killed over 1,200 people.

Relief agencies on the ground have warned that more funding is urgently needed as the response so far has been “extremely slow”.

“I woke up to the sound of gunfire,” revealed the Dublin aid worker who is in the country with Concern Worldwide.

Ireland’s largest humanitarian aid agency is highlighting the worsening conditions.

Shocking figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reveal that there are two million children at risk of severe, acute malnutrition – a fatal condition if they are untreated.

Dublin man Mark is Concern’s Emergency Programme Manager in the country and he said that conflict is a constant threat to local communities.

“The impact of the conflict is very clear to see here,” he explained.

“We were recently distributing aid when fighting broke out in a nearby town, forcing us to postpone our activities to ensure the safety of the affected communities and our staff that are supporting them.

“I woke up to the sound of gunfire in the distance and saw people walking around with weapons. The reality of day-to-day life can be very volatile for people.”

A lack of access to clean water and sanitation has also sparked a deadly outbreak of cholera.

Over 1,200 lives have already been claimed by the disease in what has been described as the “worst outbreak in more than 20 years”.

Concern is fighting the spread of the disease through an emergency programme in Tanganyika and Haut Katanga provinces in the southeast which is supporting more than 61,000 people with access to safe water, sanitation and essential items to improve hygiene. 

“The suffering is on a massive scale and is worsening by the day,” said Concern’s Regional Director for Central Africa, Reka Sztopa.

“We are calling for unimpeded access to provide lifesaving assistance, as well as increased levels of funding.”

Concern, which has worked in Democratic Republic of Congo for over 20 years, said aid has been “extremely slow” to arrive for the 13 million people currently in need, despite a decision by the UN to upgrade the status to a Level 3 Emergency.

This means that it joins Yemen and Syria in being regarded as “the worst-of-the-worst of humanitarian crises”, with hundreds of thousands of people set to starve if vital intervention does not materialise.

Two per cent ($36.8 million) of the $1.68 billion in humanitarian funding that the UN has called for to aid the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018 has so far been received this year – which follows only 52 per cent in funding needs being met in 2017.

“Urgent aid is needed to help the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes,” added Reka Sztopa. “Just one in eight people who need food received aid last month. We cannot stand by and allow this to continue.”

Displacement in North Kivu is related to conflict between armed groups with many vying for control of land and resources.Last month, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said that over 5,500 people fled their homes in the country every day in 2017 due to conflict.


A Concern distribution centre for displaced families in Katale.

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