Thousands of refugees from DRC gather on border Burundi

Thousands of people are gathered on the Burundian side of the border after fleeing fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The refugees are staying in an already existing refugee camp, as well as on two sites in and near the Burundian city of Cibitoke.

MSF has established two mobile clinics for the Congolese refugees. Also a cholera treatment centre in Cibitoke hospital and isolation areas in both camps are established after four cases had been confirmed. Due to the cholera situation, the initial planning by the UNHCR to move the refugees away from the border will likely be postponed.

The flow of refugees from the DRC is continuing. Rumours of refugees piling up at the border on the Congolese side cannot be checked, because that area is inaccessible at the moment.

A skeleton team has returned to Bukavu last week. This team had evacuated the city in late May following increased insecurity (see: Renewed tension in Bukavu, DRC, affects MSF teams and patients). The evacuation was unexpected as Bukavu has normally been a stable location for MSF and this stability was a key motivation in the recent decision to start an anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment programme there for HIV/AIDS patients.

The evacuation by MSF raised the immediate concern as to whether the ARV treatment could be continued properly. Fortunately, the programme was uninterrupted as national staff, who remained in Bukavu, maintained the programme. As for patient availability, the adherence is considered better than expected in such an uncertain and insecure situation.

MSF also tried to offer alternatives to those who had chosen to flee the area. Three patients from Bukavu, DRC who had fled to Rwanda picked up their ARV's from an MSF project there, after they had heard on the radio that they could.

MSF activities resume

Normal activities have also been resumed in Shabunda and North Kivu, with the exception of Walikale. A team visited there overnight but the town is virtually empty with hardly any patients in either the hospital or the feeding centre. National staff have reported receiving victims of rape.

For the moment MSF does not plan a full scale return to Walikale.

National staff are continuing the programme in Baraka, as it is too uncertain to return. Fizi remains suspended.