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DRC : UNICEF dispatches essential materials to Bunia to assist victims of renewed fighting

13 May 2003 - UNICEF has sent two plane-loads of relief items from Goma to Bunia in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo to assist the victims of the resumed fighting in the area.

While the extent of the displacement of population is not yet known, it is feared that hundreds of thousands of persons, mainly children and women, are fleeing the violence and the starvation it has brought in its wake.

Fighting broke out in Bunia, the largest city of the Ituri Province, last Wednesday, the day after the last Ugandan soldiers left. Some 30 people, including infants, are reported to have been killed last week-end.

The Economic Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO, which was evacuating its humanitarian personnel), put its plane at the disposal of UNICEF for the transport of aid materials.

These include essential drugs kits, water storage containers, intravenous drips to take care of injured, tents, plastic sheeting, sachets of Oral rehydration salts (ORS), jerrycans, and water purification products. All these items were already prepositioned in the UNICEF sub office of Goma, some 350 kms south of Bunia.

The items were handed over to the MONUC and they will be vital in setting up an emergency hospital to treat the injured people in Bunia, many of whom continue to depend on humanitarian assistance.

The most pressing needs to address are water and sanitation, emergency health care, including the prevention of epidemics, and nutrition of the most vulnerable groups. One of the key priorities is to ensure safe water for the population of the town of Bunia, as the water treatment plant is now only providing safe water for an estimated 10% of the town putting the population at risk of another cholera outbreak, such as the one UNICEF had to address in September 2002.

The initial rapid response to alleviate the conditions of the displaced people was also made possible through the co-ordination effort between UNICEF and ECHO, sending items to Bunia from UNICEF’s pre-positioned stocks in Goma.

UNICEF in close collaboration with key UN partners, donors and International NGOs will continue in the coming hours and days to dispatch further relief items.

The Hema and Lendu tribes have been fighting each other for years in the area that borders on Uganda and Rwanda. The issue is land claimed by both the nomadic Hema and the farming Lendu. Up to 50,000 people have been killed in the violence between the two tribes in recent months. Another 500,000 people fled, mostly to Uganda.

Pour plus d’informations :

Johannes Wedenig, UNICEF Zonal Office- Goma, Tel (00250) 08305901
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: (41) 022 909 5517




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