Over 88,000 displaced people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are receiving humanitarian aid again after a suspension forced by intensified fighting between ethnic militias, but the area remains tense and further disruption to aid activities cannot be ruled out, the United Nations announced today.
“The death toll in the camps is back under control,” said the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the area, Modibo Traore. “However the situation remains very tense in the area and the risk that vital aid may once again be cut off is very real.”
Fighting between Lendu and Hema ethnic militias in the Ituri region worsened recently, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing their homes, and last week UN peacekeepers came under attack while carrying out a search operation against mainly Lendu militia, returned fire and killed at least 50 fighters. The battle came days after nine UN peacekeepers from Bangladesh were killed in an ambush.
“There are very likely more people still hiding in the bush,” Mr. Traore said, speaking in Ituri’s main town of Bunia. “We are receiving reports of people who are sick or injured but too afraid to seek treatment. Humanitarians can only help those who can reach the safe areas.”
Aid organizations suspended assistance to more than 54,000 displaced people in the Kakwa, Tché and Gina areas on 28 February due to security concerns. Workers returned on Monday to Gina to assess conditions and planned a rapid return to activities. This followed the resumption of aid to over 21,000 displaced people in Tché over the weekend after an improvement in security conditions on the road north from Bunia.
Aid workers were pleased to note that those sheltering in Gina had started to dig their own latrines during the suspension of aid. “These are courageous people, who have suffered enormously over the recent years. Humanitarians will continue to do everything possible to continue providing them with life-saving assistance despite the tense security situation,” Mr. Traore said.
OCHA is planning an assessment mission to Tché and Kakwa over the next two days to review the humanitarian situation and attempt to negotiate for continued access to the recently displaced.