Aid Workers Resume Assistance to Civilian Population
Kisingani, DRC: June 12, 2000 — Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the international aid agency, has been surveying the casualties and needs of the civilian population for the first time after a week of fighting in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo.
MSF's Head of Mission in Kisangani, Eric van Ooijen, reports, "We counted over 1,100 war-wounded and 47 dead in the 42 health centers we visited since Sunday morning when the fighting stopped. For the moment it's impossible to give an accurate figure of the fatalities in the city but our teams did see dead bodies along the roads." It is unclear as yet whether the cease-fire, announced by Uganda and Rwanda on Saturday, will hold.
Medical teams from MSF have resumed their assistance to the people of the city after being confined to a shelter due to heavy and indiscriminate firing. The teams will focus their assistance on cholera prevention and treatment, nutrition, and basic health care. Cholera is endemic in the region and the first suspected cases have already been identified.
MSF is distributing medical supplies from its existing stocks to hospitals and health centers to help care for the wounded. The teams have also visited 7 sites in the city where approximately 7,000 displaced people have congregated. Thousands more people who fled the city during the week of fighting are now returning to join existing groups of displaced.
Van Ooijen is very concerned about the amount of food available for the population. "There's an alarming shortage of food in town, and what is available is changing hands at incredible prices. We are resuming our feeding program and will supply food to those who cannot buy it in the market," he stated.
MSF is sending 35 tons of relief goods, mainly food, to Goma on Wednesday.
MSF has 6 international and 250 local staff in Kisangani. More international staff are due to join them.