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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 22 May 2003

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To ask the Minister of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the killing of two UN observers in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo. [115417]

The Government condemn the killing last week of two unarmed military observers from Malawi and Jordan in the Ituri District of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their bodies were recovered on 18 May 2003. We express our condolences both to their families and the Malawian Government and the King of Jordan.We are very concerned about the situation in the Ituri region and are monitoring developments closely. The UN has asked the UK and others to participate in an emergency multinational peacekeeping force to stabilise the security situation. We are considering this request urgently. We have asked for more details of the proposed deployment to enable us to look at possible options for providing assistance.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with particular reference to Ituri. [115451]

Recent data from the NGO International Rescue Committee and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) continues to provide evidence of a very serious humanitarian situation in DRC. Ituri is particularly badly affected. Militia commanders have agreed to allow overland access but want food for troops, which is not acceptable to the UN. The UN is planning a joint assessment. Access and the operating environment are the main constraints rather than funding at this stage.

In March 2003 we provided funding of £1 million through UN OCHA for emergency humanitarian interventions in DRC including in Ituri. We remain willing to support agencies able to address urgent humanitarian needs in Ituri.

Our total funding support to DRC has increased considerably in recent years. In 2000–01 our total funding was £3.09 million; in 2001–02 our total funding came to £5.56 million; in 2002–03 our total funding was £12.9 million. The allocation for 2003–04 is £16 million of which £4.26 million has already been committed.

We continue to play our part alongside our international partners in seeking to change the situation through our support to the peace process in the DRC. It is only through this that the prospects of a real improvement in the situation in the long term can be achieved.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what recent discussions his Department has had with (a) officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and (b) the UN concerning the humanitarian situation in the DRC with particular reference to Ituri. [115452]

We are liaison closely with the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) on the situation in Ituri. UN OCHA is Concerned to ensure that the immediate needs of civilians at the airport and at the MONUC camp are met. Militia commanders have agreed to allow overland access but want food for troops, which is not acceptable to the UN. The UN is planning a joint assessment. Access and the operating environment are the main constraints rather than funding at this stage.We continuously monitor the humanitarian situation in the DRC. We have increased our total funding to DRC in recent years. In 2001–2002 our total funding was £5.56 million, of which £5.18 million was humanitarian assistance. In 2002–03 our total funding was £12.9 million, of which £10.89 million was humanitarian assistance. In March 2003 we provided funding of £1 million UN OCHA for humanitarian emergency interventions in DRC including in Ituri. The Head of UN OCHA has recently visited and assessed the situation in the area and will be funding those humanitarian agencies that are currently active and effective. The UN OCHA Deputy Head for New York will also be visiting Ituri at the end of this week. DFID will shortly be sending its Humanitarian Adviser to visit the region to assess the situation and look at how DFID can effectively assist further alongside other international donors.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the possibility of deploying a rapid reaction force to the area of Ituri, Democratic Repubic of the Congo, and the possibility of humanitarian aid entering that area. [115453]

We are very concerned about the situation in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo and are monitoring developments closely. The UN has asked the UK and others to participate in an emergency multinational peacekeeping force to stabilise the security situation and we are considering this request urgently. We have asked for more details of the proposed deployment to enable us to look at possible options for providing assistance.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) continues to confirm a very serious humanitarian situation in Ituri. Militia commanders have agreed to allow overland access but want food for troops which is not acceptable to the UN. The UN is planning ah urgent joint assessment. Access and the operating environment are the main constraints rather than funding at this stage.