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Volume 403: debated on Thursday 10 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate she has made of the number of people who have died in the conflict in the Congo since 1998; what action her Department is taking to deal with the humanitarian problems in the Congo; and if she will make a statement. [108201]

The International Rescue Committee has just published a new report on mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which puts the number of people who have died as a result of the war there since 1998 at between 3.3 million and 4.7 million. It is important to be clear however that the vast majority of these estimated deaths were from disease and malnutrition rather than combat.

We welcome this report and hope that it will not be misrepresented. One of the conclusions is that the general rate of mortality and in particular the rate of death from violence in the east of the DRC has decreased dramatically (by 90 per cent.) over the past year.

The report's recommendations are welcome and are in line with Government efforts working with the UN and the South Africans to get the new Congolese Transitional Government installed in Kinshasa and for all foreign troops to withdraw as agreed in the Lusaka Peace Accord. Only Uganda has not honoured this commitment to withdraw fully. It is imperative that neighbouring states and groups in Kinshasa cease to provide funding and arms to factions in eastern Congo which are causing such suffering to the people of the region.

DFID is providing substantial help to efforts directed at reducing the suffering of civilians with urgent humanitarian needs in Congo. Last financial year DFID provided over £11.5 million through the UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross in response to their emergency appeals and through international NGOs in the following areas: health, nutrition, refugees.

The UK continues to play a major part in the international effort to bring this conflict to an end so that the long-suffering people of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda can look forward to a future of peace, stability and development.