Oxfam And Other Aid Agencies Concerned By Refugee Crisis in DRC
A group of 18 humanitarian organisations has warned that urgent action is necessary after a series of armed attacks in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. The civilians need help and are trapped in an area that lies between the Ugandan border and a part of the DRC currently being terrorized by armed militia and is close to the Ebola outbreak that has resulted in the deaths of more than 950 people.
The attacks took place in Beni territory North Kivu and according to local health officials more than 60,000 people have had to flee. Thousands have sought shelter at a primary school close to the border with Uganda. The only water they have available to drink comes from a river and the school has very few toilets which means the threat of disease is extremely high. Because no food is being provided for many people who sought shelter the only way to feed themselves is to return to their villages where they feel unsafe.
Oxfam very worried
An Oxfam spokesperson in the DRC says the agency is extremely worried by a situation where people afraid to return home are being forced to live in cramped unsanitary conditions and where the risk of contracting Ebola is high. The people need food and sanitation urgently as well as clean water and access to health services. The humanitarian agencies say that the continuing violence in the region makes reaching people very difficult so aid is not being delivered from within DRC and authorities in Uganda are preparing for a deluge of new refugees.
Refugees not being allowed to cross the border
In Uganda the refugees may have better access to basic services including healthcare plus they will also receive the protection they need. However, many have expressed their concerns about reports that suggest people are not being allowed to cross the border into Uganda at least sixteen official crossings. As a result, some of those that fled the violence are left with no choice but return back to their homes where they at risk of further attacks.
Ebola risk compounded
Some have chosen to cross illegally through the forests along the border. This is not good because it compounds the risk of Ebola being spread because people are not being screened as they would have done had they crossed at official border check posts. Aid workers say both governments need to partner with humanitarian agencies to ensure the protection of displaced people and deliver the help they so desperately need.
Prepare to cope with new influx
The government of Uganda and UNHCR are preparing to receive those that have been displaced and the 18 organisations are urging authorities in DRC are able to cross freely and safely into Uganda. The organisations also want the UNHCR, authorities in both DRC and Uganda and international donors to cooperate and pool resources to make sure people get the help they need as quickly as possible. All stakeholders need to ensure they are prepared to cope an influx of new refugees.
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