DRC: Continued fighting in Ituri forces another 35,000 to flee
4 January 2003
DRC - As fighting continues to ravage the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 35,000 people fled from heavy artillery shootings around their home town of Makeke, on the border between North-Kivu and Ituri, to the town of Beni on December 31st. MSF has been present in the Beni area since early December and has already seen tens of thousands displaced people arriving, seeking refuge from war. In early December, MSF opened dispensaries for displaced people north of the town of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The dispensaries originally catered to 25,000 people, including war displaced who have not had access to health care in years. Today, the dispensaries cater to 60,000 people, who daily flee the extreme levels of violence and fighting in Ituri province. Since December, MSF teams have seen over 7,500 patients for medical consultations in six villages on the Beni-Mambassa axis. The health posts MSF has reopened over this period are now far beyond full capacity, and MSF is setting up hospital tents. In less than a month, MSF teams have treated 33 children suffering from acute malnutrition, and 13 rape victims. In Mangina, where measles broke out, MSF is vaccinating all patients during consultations as the displaced population has not been vaccinated in years. The on-going fighting and violence in the region prevent MSF medical teams access to a large part of the population. "We see only part of the displaced population," said Philippe Hamel, MSF Head of Mission. "There may be many more. We fear that in total there might be over 155,000 displaced people in the area between Butembo, Beni, Mambasa and Komanda alone". MSF wants to rapidly expand is emergency relief operations in the area. Large areas remain inaccessible to humanitarian aid as fighting and violence rage on. Despite the signing of a countrywide peace accord and cease-fire by the government and major rebel movements on December 17 and a special cease-fire agreement for Ituri signed last Sunday, the on-going war in eastern Congo is still severing tens of thousands of civilians from all medical and emergency relief. Elsewhere in eastern Congo, violence also continues despite the cease-fire arrangement. Fighting in the Uvira area, South Kivu, last week led over 1,000 people to flee and seek refuge in Burundi. Fighting in around the town of Baraka, also South-Kivu, led two-thirds of the population out of the town. MSF, which had started to support only hospital services in the area, had to temporarily suspend its activities.