August 16, 2004
Up to 160 people were killed and 106 wounded Friday, August 13, 2004, when a military group attacked a refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi, near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The camp, 15 miles west of Burundi's capital Bujumbura, housed some 870 people, mainly Banyamulenge who fled a wave of violence in Bukavu, DRC, last June.
The attackers, apparently dressed in uniforms, set fire to several buildings housing refugees at around 10 pm local time while most of the men, women and children inside were asleep. In other buildings, refugees were killed, mainly by gun shot but also by machetes and hand grenade explosions.
"I had never seen such a scene before," explains Véronique Parque, head of mission of MSF-Belgium in Burundi, who arrived in the camp Saturday morning just a few hours after the attack. "Half of the buildings had been burnt down. One could see bodies still burning. It was an extremely distressing situation."
A number of wounded were transferred to local medical facilities, where MSF staff are regularly checking on their medical progress. Doctors and nurses are caring for 23 patients at the MSF Center for War Wounded in Bujumbura, and have operated on 9 severely wounded victims.
Together with a team from the International Committee for the Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC), MSF staff helped wrapped up the burnt bodies of the 160 victims.
A team of psychologists from MSF and other organizations is also providing psychological support to the victims, permanently present in a school to help refugees with psychological trauma.
Before the attack on the refugees, a nearby camp for the Burundi Army was also attacked.
MSF was not working permanently in the camp at Gatumba because access to medical care has been possible in the nearby capital.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)