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Agencies plead for Congo cash

Britain's aid agencies are appealing for funds to ease the desperate plight of people affected by the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

"The start of the rainy season has meant people living in already desperate conditions are becoming ever more vulnerable," said Brendan Gormley, the chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together charities such as Oxfam and Save the Children.

Before the latest outbreak of fighting, nutrition centres were admitting one to two malnourished children a day, but that has jumped to between eight and 10. "Our member agencies are reaching several hundred thousand people, but the need is overwhelming and increasing. We have got to do more and now, more than ever, we need the British public to show their generosity," Mr Gormley added.

Hundreds of Congolese rebel fighters pulled back from frontline positions yesterday, but the situation is still volatile. The UN is expected to vote this week to reinforce its peacekeeping contingent from 17,000 troops to more than 20,000.

Donations can be made by visiting www.dec.org.uk or by calling 0370 6060900