Civilians flee rebel advance in Congo
The United Nations has expressed shock at the sight of thousands of civilians fleeing a rebel advance in eastern Congo and appealed for access to help those caught up in the violence.
And in what would be a major first for its peacekeeping operations, the UN said it was considering using drones to monitor the fighting between the Democratic Republic of Congo military and the M23 rebels.
The rebels captured Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, on Tuesday before taking the key town of Sake 20 kilometres to the west the next day, forcing thousands more people to take flight.
A UN source said the rebels appeared to have halted just south of Sake after battles with government forces and an allied local militia.
"I have been shocked by the pictures I have seen of the ordinary women, men and children fleeing the violence in and around Goma," said the UN deputy secretary for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos.
The conflict was preventing aid workers from delivering even the most basic aid in already badly hit areas, she added.
Leila Zerrougui, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, said children were among the innocent casualties in the recent fighting.
"Children have been killed and injured in the crossfire, deliberately targeted and allegedly recruited as soldiers," she said.
In just four days early this week, 16 children had been wounded, Zerrougui said.
They also lived in fear of being forcibly recruited into a militia group - or of being raped, she added.
The UN refugee agency warned that fighting had blocked access to all but one of the 31 camps for displaced people in North Kivu.
"There are bodies lining the road" leading south from Sake, Thierry Goffeau, the head of the Goma chapter of Doctors Without Borders, said without giving specific figures.