Displaced in Bunia face aid shortages

Outside of Bunia town, people in the volatile Ituri region still have no access to humanitarian aid. It is still impossible for humanitarian organisations to assess the situation or extend help outside of Bunia town.
Bunia, DRC - The international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today that there are not enough essential supplies to help the displaced people coming to the town of Bunia in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since last Saturday, thousands of people have been returning to the town where an intervention force led by the European Union has deployed since Jun 6. MSF says that the current levels of assistance to the displaced in town - especially food aid - are already insufficiant. With around 1,300 additional people coming to Bunia every day, MSF fears that there will very soon be a significant lack of medical facilities, food distributions, shelter materials and sanitary facilities for the people flocking to open camps in the town. Although many of the people coming to Bunia are returnees who fled fighting in the town in mid-May, only few families go straight back to their homes. Many of the houses in Bunia have been destroyed and looted. Especially at night, insecurity still reigns in many areas of the town. All this means that most people chose to stay in a camp that already houses around 15,000 who live in dire conditions: the returnees have to cater for their own shelter and food - apart from one single food distribution two weeks ago - and they have not been provided with hygienic sanitary facilities. Since May 15, the MSF-run hospital in the centre of town has been the only health structure in the wide region with surgical facilities. The hospital has 70 beds for in-patients. MSF surgeon Birgit Neudecker performs at least ten operations every day. "Fighter are brought in with fresh war wounds," said Dr Neudecker. "But civilians have war wounds that are often more than three weeks old. It is very difficult to help them. These people must have suffered a lot," she said. The MSF hospital assists ill and wounded patients from all ethnic groups. The hospitals performs on average 1200 consultations per week. MSF set up a new health post where people enter Bunia. The organization provides first aid and does a medical screening of people entering the town. According to MSF workers at the health post, the returnees are exhausted, many are ill and many children are malnourished, because of the harsh conditions they have had to survive. In addition to people returning to Bunia, there are many villagers who flee fighting in the surrounding countryside. Outside of Bunia town, people in the volatile Ituri region still have no access to humanitarian aid. It is still impossible for humanitarian organisations to assess the situation or extend help outside of Bunia town. "Bunia is becoming like a partly surrounded refuge where people from the surrounding areas seek safety ," said Nicolas Louis, MSF Head of Mission for Bunia. People who are trapped outside of Bunia, many of whome have been displaced several times over the last years, have no access to assistance or healthcare. The MSF team in Bunia consists of ten expatriate workers and 104 local employees, of whom 42 are medical professionals. For the last six weeks, teams have been working day and night in the hospital.