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In Congo Fight, Most Die of Preventable Disease & Lack of Outside Help

New fighting has erupted today in a civil war some call the most brutal in Africa. Rebels claimed victory over government troops in a remote town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where millions have died in 3 years of fighting.

CBS's Tom Fenton has more on this underreported conflict.

Children are the most vulnerable victims of this appalling conflict. In some areas of the Congo, three-quarters are dying before the age of 2.

In the eastern part of the country 2_ million civilians have died as a result of the war, the vast majority from easily treatable diseases. And though a shaky ceasefire has partly halted the fighting, 3 years of war have left the country with almost no healthcare or infrastructure.

John Keys, from the International Rescue Committee, said, " If these issues are not addressed, then people will continue to die at a rate of 70 to 75 thousand a month."

There are 2,000 local doctors for 50 million people and few medical supplies. All this in a vast country with some of the world's richest mineral resources. It's partly the diamonds and precious metals that lured half-a-dozen neighboring countries into a conflict that was initially a civil war. Now it is a regional conflict, with many of the invaders engaged in systematic looting of the Congo's resources.

There is an immediate need for food just to prevent starvation. But the world reaction to one of the deadliest wars in African history has been restrained.

Richard Burge, a Christian aide, said, "You compare the media attention given to Kosovo, for example. I mean, there is no comparison as far as the aid going into Kosovo and the aid going into Congo. People in Congo also deserve the world’s attention."

The World Health Organization believes an initial $350 million would be enough to halt the preventable deaths. A small investment, aid organizations say, when weighed against the profits the world has reaped from the Congo.
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