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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

As 6,000 flee renewed violence, UNICEF distributes food and emergency supplies

© UNICEF DR Congo/2006/Willemot
A family on the run. Nara Adjiba and her her children – the youngest only one year old – walked 30 km to get to safety near Aveba.

By Yves Willemot and Kun Li

BUNIA, DR Congo, 10 February 2006 – Fighting has once again erupted between armed militias and government troops in the eastern part of this country. Fearing the violence, more than 6,000 people – most of whom are children fleeing with their parents – have abandoned their homes and taken refuge near the village of Aveba, in hopes of being protected by UN peacekeeping troops stationed nearby.

Aveba and the surrounding areas are isolated by the ongoing fighting, rendering access very difficult. UNICEF and partner organizations carried out an assessment, arriving via helicopter.

“We found a very difficult situation,” said Massimo Nicoletti Altimari, Head of UNICEF’s Liaison Office in Bunia, who was with the assessment team. “Food is not available and there is no shelter. Many of them were living under the trees.”

Nara Adjiba and her children – the youngest only one year old – walked 30 km to get to the comparative safety of Aveba. “We had to flee our village of Kagaba because of the fighting,” she told UNICEF staff. “Most of the houses in our village were burnt down by the militia. We do not know what to do. We lost everything.”

© UNICEF DR Congo/2006/Willemot
Most of the people in the camp are living rough under trees.

Relief convoy

Just 48 hours after the assessment mission, a convoy of 4 trucks loaded with relief supplies from UNICEF and partners arrived in Aveba. Escorted by heavily armed UN peacekeeping forces, the trucks were carrying 40 tons of food provided by the World Food Programme. Also among the supplies were high-energy protein biscuits for children, cooking utensils, and plastic sheeting.

When the supplies were distributed, every family received three boxes of biscuits, one set of cooking utensils, plastic sheeting for shelter, and a bag of salt, beans and wheat. The supplies are sufficient for approximately one month.

Commenting on the situation in the camp, Mr. Altimari said: “Water is not yet a problem, but if the number of people should increase, it will become a problem. Sanitation facilities are not available.

“Whenever the security situation improves, we will set up an emergency school and distribute school material to allow the children continue their education.”

© UNICEF DR Congo/2006/Willemot
UNICEF and partners distributed food, high protein biscuits, cooking sets and plastic sheeting.

More people may flee in coming weeks

If the fighting continues, it is expected that the number of people taking refuge near Aveba will increase, putting more pressure on the already limited resources in the camp.

“Continuous relief operations by the humanitarian organizations will be needed, so that a humanitarian disaster can be avoided,” warned Mr. Altimari. “The region has been insecure for the last two years, and very few humanitarian interventions have been brought there.”

“We really hope the Government will take responsibility towards its own people. They have been suffering too much and for too long,” he said.




10 February 2006:
Massimo Nicoletti Altimari, the head of UNICEF’s Office in Bunia, DR Congo, talks about the situation facing children and families who have fled the fighting.
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