Thousands Flee Fighting in Eastern DRC

New York, 10 February 2005 - Since the end of January 2005, fighting between rebels groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Djugu region in the eastern Ituri province has displaced thousands of Congolese. A number of people have seen their homes destroyed, and sought refuge in the neighboring villages of Tche, north of Bunia, and Kawa, on the banks of Lake Albert.

In Tche, nearly 7,000 people have settled in precarious conditions and require immediate medical, sanitation, and nutritional assistance. A medical team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up a temporary health structure and is providing access to potable water. The Tche region, located in the highlands, presents difficult living conditions for the displaced, with especially low temperatures at night.

Access for aid organizations to Kawa, where 5,000 to 7,000 people have sought refuge on the banks of Lake Albert, is difficult and only by boat. A high number of patients with dysentery as well as low measles vaccination coverage among children under 5 years of age has been reported. An additional medical team will set up a temporary clinic in the coming days to meet the most urgent needs, and a measles vaccination campaign for the most vulnerable is foreseeable. MSF is also setting up a drinkable water system to avoid contamination of existing water sources.

A cargo plane transporting medical, water and sanitation equipment arrived in Bunia February 9. The equipment will enable MSF to meet the needs of 20,000 displaced people for 3 months.

MSF teams continue to assess the medical and sanitary needs in the region by conducting mobiles visits from Bunia, where MSF supports one of the two hospitals in town.

MSF has been working in the Ituri region since June 2003 and continues to provide assistance to people who flee the fighting in the region. Today, 11 international volunteers and more than 270 national staff provide care to people at Bunia Hospital and through in mobile clinics.