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Brussels, 11 December 2008

Eastern Congo crisis: Commissioner Louis Michel on humanitarian mission to North Kivu

Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, arrived in Goma in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this morning. His aim is to assess the humanitarian situation in the region where some 250,000 people have been displaced since renewed fighting in August. Commissioner Michel wants to speak with victims of the conflict and humanitarian aid workers. He will visit centres for internally displaced people (IDPs) near Goma and a medical centre in Rutshuru to learn directly about the humanitarian priorities and practical challenges. Yesterday evening, he met with the United Nations' special envoy and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Nairobi to receive an update on discussions between rebels in North Kivu (CNDP) and the government of DRC. On Thursday morning, Commissioner Michel held talks with President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. On Friday, Commissioner Michel will meet with DRC President, Joseph Kabila.

Commissioner Louis Michel said: "The humanitarian situation is serious and it's important that I am able to see the difficult conditions so many people are having to cope with. The European Commission's humanitarian support plays a crucial part in helping displaced people in North Kivu in the short term. Commission-funded relief projects such as medical centres and camps are not just around the city of Goma, but all over the region. We must give the ordinary people in the Kivu regions the prospect of a normal life again. As I said before: Europe cares and we stand ready to help in the reconstruction of the Kivu regions. But first all sides must find a diplomatic and political solution and agree on a lasting peace."

The European Commission remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in North Kivu. In 2008, DG ECHO has provided a total of 45.55 M EUR for humanitarian and food aid for DRC, from which nearly 50% have been allocated to the Kivus. Since the end of August 2008, DG ECHO has made available 6.645 M EUR (from the 45.55 M EUR amount) to address additional needs in North Kivu.

The Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), under the responsibility of Louis Michel, has an emergency response expert in Goma. He is closely following developments in the humanitarian situation on the ground. He also plays an active role in the coordination of relief efforts and monitors the use of the Commission's funds.

The Commission also runs a dedicated humanitarian air service called "ECHO-Flight", as many humanitarian projects in the region can only be reached by air.

All Commission relief funds are channelled through non-governmental relief organisations, specialised UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement. There are currently a dozen ECHO partners active in Eastern Congo. In total, the Commission is providing more than €45 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in the DRC this year.

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