Alarming Health Situation in Ituri Camps in DR Congo as Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Resumes Relief Activities

Geneva, 5 March, 2005 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has resumed relief activities in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that MSF left 8 days ago due to increasing insecurity conditions.

In the camp of Tché, the situation observed by MSF teams returning after 8 days of suspension is alarming. At least 25 people have died during the last 6 days amidst a total absence of assistance. According to Patrick Barbier, Head of Mission for MSF in Ituri district, "The camp is a real mess and still expanding as 200 to 300 new IDPs have arrived. There are many people suffering from diarrhea and the sanitation in the camp is deteriorating rapidly." Rape cases, including gang rapes, have also been continuing on a large scale, with at least 6 cases reported in Tché. People were welcoming with excitement and relief the arrival of medical assistance at a time when the general safety of people remains precarious. The population of the camp is now nearing 10,000 IDPs.

In the camp Kakwa, situated northeast of Bunia, near Lake Albert, another MSF team was confronted with yet another serious deterioration of the health situation. Many cases of severe diarrhea with dehydration were observed, unattended for days. A woman who had a complicated delivery, including severe loss of blood for the last two days, died during her transfer to Bunia. Between 2 and 3 deaths per day have been reported in the camp of 5000 people suggesting an increasingly high level of mortality. The MSF team is setting up a nutritional facility in the camp to attend to the moderate and severe malnutrition cases. A field admission care center has also been established in Tchomia, situated on the shores of Lake Albert.

Yesterday, another MSF medical team visited the village of Loga, some 30 kilometers north of Bunia, a location where a MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) operation took place on March 1, 2005 on a market day. Distressed-looking people welcomed our team as it entered Loga, a small market and trading place, which has been partially destroyed. No wounded were found on the spot yesterday by our team. However this morning, March 5, 2005, when the team returned, the community reported that several wounded persons were still hiding in the bush but still too scared to come out.

Since June 2003, MSF has been working in the Ituri district located in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. MSF provides assistance to people who have had to flee the areas affected by conflicts between warring factions. Today 20 international volunteers (of which 9 are involved in this emergency) and more than 300 national staff are providing assistance to people at Bunia "Bon Marché" Hospital and through mobile clinics.