Months after clashes broke out again in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, ominous headlines are still pouring out. BBC announced: Congo rebel chief threatens ‘war'. A CNN report tells of displaced Congolese civilians fleeing to Uganda.
Continued violence in the region has heavily compromised operations of the U.N. Population Fund, forcing the agency to suspend its reproductive health programs in the province of North Kivu. Assistant Representative Ngoy Kishimba told Devex Early Intelligence that UNFPA has halted health zone activities which include health personnel training and rehabilitation of maternity facilities.
The agency is also considering relocating its staff in the North Kivu sub-office, Kishimba said. With women being one of the vulnerable groups in the ongoing hostilities and rape cases on the rise, UNFPA will continue to implement the sexual and gender-based violence program in the province.
According to the UNFPA official, preparations for the 2010 general population and housing census are also affected. With the government mainly focused on addressing the conflict and stabilizing the region, some activities such as advocacy efforts for the census are currently on hold. Kishimba indicated that there might not be enough time to implement these interventions, which are part of the population and development initiative.
On a positive note, UNFPA projects in other areas of DRC are proceeding normally. Targeted health zones in 10 other provinces are still receiving reproductive health support and other planned activities are still on track. For an optimist, this may mean that the glass is actually more than half-full. However, 250,000 refugees, mass rapes, and child soldiers can hardly be illustrated as a glass that is just a little less brimful.