(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Bunia urgently in need of humanitarian aid, say agencies

Country Map - DRC (Bunia)

Recent fighting in the city of Bunia in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has "seriously aggravated" an already difficult humanitarian situation, with about 10,000 families now having been displaced, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Tuesday.

Aid agencies in Bunia have called on OCHA to facilitate the mobilisation of emergency food and medical aid for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and wounded victims of the conflict, as aid available on-site is insufficient.

According to OCHA, the humanitarian community in Bunia has reported the civilian death toll of most recent fighting as more than 110 people, with another 70 wounded. The fighting was accompanied by looting, including 14 mt of humanitarian food aid.

While the situation in Bunia is reported to have calmed down considerably in recent days, access to certain neighbourhoods of Bunia, such as Kindja and Mudzipela, has remained impossible due to continuing hostilities.

The latest round of fighting erupted on 6 August when ethnic Hema militias supported by the Ugandan army and a dissident faction of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Kisangani-Mouvement de liberation called Union des patriotes of congolais seized control of most of Bunia and took charge of local government.

[A useful background document produced by Human Rights Watch on conflict in the northeastern DRC region can be found at: http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/hemabckg.htm]

Bunia, with a population of about 300,000 people, is less than 50 km from the Ugandan border.

A relief operation that had begun on 25 July for some 4,000 families displaced by previous combat in the region had to be suspended due to the most recent fighting.

The humanitarian community in Bunia has identified five health centres throughout the city to which they have been able to supply emergency medical equipment, and is assisting the local Red Cross with the identification, transportation and burial of corpses.

In May 2002, the humanitarian community estimated the IDP population in Ituri Province, of which Bunia is the capital, at 500,000.

Nationwide, conflict in the DRC has resulted in the displacement of about 2.6 million people, of whom 2.2 million remain within DRC territory and 390,000 are refugees outside the country, OCHA reported.

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