DRC staff interview: "Evacuation in the face of need is never easy"

"(In mid-May) we got the first rumours that people were fleeing Buni. In one day, another medical NGO that was working more to the north went from 30 consultations per day up to 300. It was clear that something was going on, so we decided to go and assess the accessibility to the area where most displaced were supposed to be."
"Being evacuated is never easy, because you have a feeling of weakness and that you cannot help the people and the colleagues you have been working with, and you leave them like that (he clicked his fingers), knowing that you have the comfort of the means of evacuation, and being back in your house, knowing those people have to stay. So it's not easy. "You have the feeling that you are reaching the people there. It is very rewarding. You work with these people day-by-day, you face them, we have been with them right from the start when they arrived from Bunia." "But is was also good to minimize the expat staff. I worked in Congo before, and we have had to evacuate a number of times. I know what insecurity here means. When trouble starts, and when rebel soldiers retreat, they start looting everything, and then you can be an easy, very easy target. And it can get very nasty. "The perception from armed groups is often that [organizations like MSF] are rich: you have money, you have big cars, and you help people. You can be an easy target for that reason. They are also confused about what we come to do. Why are we really there? What is our real interest? Or they confuse you with the MONUC [UN military observers in Congo, who are often accused of standing by when abuses take place.] They also have white cars (similar to many many aid agency agencies). "(In mid-May) we got the first rumours that people were fleeing Buni. In one day, another medical NGO that was working more to the north went from 30 consultations per day up to 300. It was clear that something was going on, so we decided to go and assess the accessibility to the area where most displaced were supposed to be. "The way in was fine and we saw many, many displaced people heading to the south. But after the assessment - and when we were on our way back - the road started to be very, very bad because of continuing rains. We got stuck in the mud. Completely stuck. We dug from six 'o clock in the evening till midnight, and finally we gave up and knew that we had to spend the night there. "We felt secure, because the road was packed with displaced and many of them were spending the night near to where we were. But among them there were some militias, also fleeing Bunia, and they were quite nasty towards us with their guns. They wanted to get to Beni as soon as possible and they 'requested' us to help them. Armed, stoned [under influence of drugs] and accusing us of being spies, or military observers, or whatever.... Yeah, that was in interesting situation. But we talked for a long time and it worked. If you talk with such people for a long time, and you feel confident, and you start joking, you can manage. In the end they were satisfied and left. "At some point, in Beni, we heard of a child that had lost its parents, brothers, sisters, for whatever reasons - a so-called 'unaccompanied child'. He was seven year old and was alone and almost ten days in the camp in Erengeti. He was stealing food in the market to survive, and was caught by local people and brought back to the camp. By his name, the people in the camp discovered he was from the tribe that had terrorized them out of Bunia and they wanted to kill him. "One Congolese Red-Cross guy intervened and saved him, and brought him to the mayor of the town, who contacted us, asking if we could do something. So we went there to look for the child. It was not easy to find him as he was hiding. Eventually we found him and we brought him to Beni, where he is now with a local organization that takes care of unaccompanied children. They are looking after him now. "When you speak to people there, they are really fed up with the civil war. This war is about many, many things, for many reasons, but in the end it is always the civilians who suffer from it. They suffered from earlier wars. They have been displaced already a number of times, and now they had to flee again. Some say they can't cope anymore, that they don't have the strength or the will anymore to flee again."