|© Oxfam GB/Renouf|
|UNICEF aid has reached 7,000 families made homeless by the conflict in eastern DR Congo.|
BUNIA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 9 February 2005 - Ongoing violence in Ituri district in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has forced at least 80,000 people to flee their homes. Reports indicate that villages have been abandoned, homes have been burned to the ground and property and livelihoods destroyed by armed groups moving through the region and targeting civilians.
The most affected area is the territory of Djugu, just north of Bunia. There are several reports of civilians being killed and women and girls abducted. Although much of the displaced population is not yet accessible to relief agencies, at least 16,600 families have regrouped in four sites, three of which are currently being protected by the United Nations Mission in DRC (MONUC) peacekeeping forces.
“We are very much afraid that the numbers [of displaced people] will continue to increase as long as militias don’t refrain from using violence against children, women and families,” says Johannes Wedenig, chief of the UNICEF office in eastern DRC.
Mr. Wedenig says that water and sanitation, food, and shelter are all serious concerns for the displaced people, but the overriding concern above all is simple physical safety. “They are fleeing a situation of attack by militias, of burning of villages, of looting. So they are seeking refuge wherever you have a MONUC contingent.”
|© Oxfam GB/Renouf|
|A young boy in a shelter, at a camp for people forced to flee their homes in eastern DR Congo.|
Working together with its partners, UNICEF has begun a new humanitarian assistance operation in the Ituri district. At least 7,000 families have already benefited from the aid distributed to two of the emergency camps where displaced people have taken refuge.
The aid covers water and sanitation, shelter and cooking materials, and high protein biscuits for vulnerable children. Planning is underway for the organization of a measles vaccination campaign and an emergency education programme for displaced children.
UNICEF DRC has obtained financial and material assistance amounting to $4,200,000 for its Rapid Response Fund (RRF), which is supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Norwegian Government, which enables UNICEF to respond to humanitarian crises much more rapidly.