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DRC: 70,000 flee violence in North-West of the country

Democratic Republic of Congo / 01.12.2009

Displaced people from Bokomzi.Displaced people from Bokomzi. © MSF.

An upsurge of violence, sparked by inter-community conflicts in Equateur Province in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has forced 70,000 people to flee their homes. Many have headed for the country’s interior, while others have taken refuge across the border, in the Republic of Congo.

Médecins Sans Frontières has launched an emergency response in Likouala, in the Republic of Congo, and has just finished an evaluation in areas hosting tens of thousands of internally displaced persons, to the south of Dongo in DRC.

Dongo, where the first wave of fighting broke out, has become a ghost town. A number of bodies were lying on the ground for weeks. Around one hundred people were killed. Houses, shops and other buildings were destroyed or set on fire, according to a UN report. In October, a long-simmering conflict between two communities escalated into an all out battle, and then spread to several nearby villages. Further to the south, in the Bomboma area, new fighting flared up on 17 November, starting in the village of Saba Saba. The residents and others already displaced following the fighting in Dongo had to run for their lives, leaving behind a number of dead, burnt buildings and a wave of looting. These are the findings of a Médecins Sans Frontières team during an evaluation conducted between 16 and 27 November. More than 70,000 people have fled, according to data collected by the organisation.

More than 40,000 internally displaced people without assistance
More than 40,000 people are headed for Kungu, Bokonzi, Bomboma, Bonzene and Boto, still in DRC. Médecins Sans Frontières’ medical teams have met individuals who walked four days non-stop to stay alive. At the end of their journey, these people are destitute. They have nothing to their name and survive hand to mouth, sleeping in makeshift shelters, schools, churches or with host families. The wounded go without treatment because the healthcare is too expensive, and they fled their homes with their pockets empty.

More than 30,000 refugees in the Republic of Congo
At least 34,000 people have crossed the Congo River, seeking refuge in Likouala in the Republic of the Congo. Médecins Sans Frontières has organised mobile clinics in various sites in Bétou district. The refugees are scattered along the river, in small groups, and the teams travel by pirogue to reach them.

“Around 800 people are staying on an island between Dongon Zaire and Eboko, because they are so scared of reprisals,” explained Salha Issoufou, Médecins Sans Frontières emergency coordinator.  “They belong to one of the communities involved in the conflict, and cannot move around to find assistance. A team will go there to bring them assistance.”

Malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea
The most common diseases observed amongst the refugees are malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea. Around one hundred people attend the Médecins Sans Frontières mobile clinics.  A third of these patients are children under five.

The first food distributions by the World Food Programme began in Bétou on 25 November. But the situation remains critical because food distributions are likely to take time.


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