Paris/Brazzaville/Kinshasa —MSF is calling for protection for refugees who fled violence in Equateur province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are now in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The situation in the conflict zone remains unsettled. Despite assessments showing that the displaced persons are in great need, they lack access to aid.
MSF estimates that the violence has led to the deaths of approximately 1,500 persons in Equateur province, DRC, over the seven days between October 28 and November 3, 2009. Between December 17 and 21, the epidemiological research center, Epicentre, surveyed 5,798 refugees in BÃƒ©tou district, Republic of Congo, who had come from Equateur province. Â The survey concluded that approximately 1,700 persons out of a population of 40,500 died from violence over a 50 day period (between October 28 and December 17). The primary victims were men above 15 years of age.
These deaths by violence occurred during an attack on the town of Dongo, in Equateur province. According to statements from refugees and provided to MSF teams in the field, hundreds of armed men, members of one of the communities in Equateur province, attacked Dongo residents on October 28, 2009.
Despite the seriousness of the events, the refugees remain unprotected. The DRC is encouraging some 120,000 refugees now in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic to return to their villages, although the refugees question security conditions there. On January 8, MSF met with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva to emphasize the need to ensure the refugees' protection, including registration and the right to asylum and non-return.
The conflict in Equateur province between the armed group and reinforced police and military forces appears to be ongoing. Some people fled fighting, while others left out of fear for their safety as the front line moved closer. Some areas remain inaccessible.
Several evaluations have reported the urgent needs of the 50,000 to 60,000 displaced persons in Equateur province. MSF has been working in towns in Bomboma (Kungu health area) and Makengo (Bonkonzi health area), where more than 40,000 displaced persons have taken shelter.
MSF expanded its activities in the Republic of Congo and, subsequently, in the Central African Republic as the refugees arrived. Â More than 8,600 medical visits have been held since November 23 and MSF teams have set up clinics at 16 sites along the Ubangi River.