/ 1 December 2009

Thousands flee fighting in DRC

More than 44 000 people have fled ethnic violence in the western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to seek refuge in the Likouala region of the Republic of Congo, aid workers said on Monday.

”We crossed the 44 000 mark yesterday [Sunday],” Samba Ndalla of the NGO Médecins d’Afrique (MDA — Doctors of Africa) said.

”On the road to Impfondo [the main town in Likouala] there are people who are still waiting to be registered by our teams,” Dr Ndalla added. MDA is helping the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Most of the latest arrivals left Burburu, a village across the Oubangui River from Impfondo, fleeing clashes in another village a few dozen kilometres more distant from the river border.

On November 20, the UNHCR said that almost 37 000 people had found refuge in Congo, while about 16 000 were displaced inside DRC’s Equateur province, where members of the Lobala and Bamboma (or Boba) communities have been fighting since the end of October.

These two communities, respectively from the villages of Enyele and Monzaya but also based in nearby places, have been in conflict for many years over the rich fishing ponds of the remote region.

Since the fighting broke out at Dongo, the clashes have claimed at least 100 lives, according to the United Nations.

The refugees have brought almost nothing with them.

”The needs expressed by these people are enormous,” Dr Ndalla said. ”Most of them sleep in the wild.”

”We don’t have any epidemics yet, but there are more and more cases of diarrhoea, respiratory infections and skin conditions among children,” he added. — Sapa-AFP