DR Congo

DRC: Food aid reaches Ankoro

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NAIROBI, 7 March (IRIN) - A 13-ship convoy carrying 626.4 mt of food aid has arrived in Ankoro, Katanga Province, in south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) told IRIN on Friday. World Vision International (WVI) will organise the delivery of the food to recipients.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, WVI said the assistance comprised maize, oil and salt rations, which would be distributed to people in Ankoro, who had been "in urgent need" of food aid since December 2002. Of the 67,000 needy, 44,000 were internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled fighting in other parts of the country, it said.

WVI described the effort as "the largest delivery of food aid ever to be shipped" in the DRC. The food aid left Lubumbashi, about 600 km from Ankoro, by train on Saturday. It was later loaded onto the 13 ships for the voyage down the River Congo to Ankoro.

Meanwhile, another international NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said on Thursday that it had closed its emergency mission in Ankoro, as "calm has now been restored and people are coming back". MSF said after two and a half months of operations in Ankoro, it would now attend to new emergencies in Kamina Lenge and Mukubu, both in Katanga Province. "The population of Ankoro, who had fled violence and looting last November, is progressively coming back to town, though uncertainties with regard to their security remains," MSF said.

It also reported that an MSF team which arrived in Ankoro on 21 November 2002 had found 1,500 homes burnt down. "Most of the population fled to the bush to escape the violence and pillaging of the Congolese Armed Forces. Several civilians were killed and many others were wounded," it said, adding that the main hospital and its pharmacy were looted.

MSF went on to note that although people were now returning to Ankoro, "the population remains worried, because these acts of violence were not the first, and the troops who committed them are yet to be replaced".

During MSF's emergency mission in Ankoro, the NGO built 50 communal shelters for families whose homes had been destroyed, and an MSF doctor and an MSF nurse worked with local staff caring for the sick and wounded in the main hospital.

MSF also said that since December, several cases of measles had been detected among the IDPs. "From 17 December to 18 January, MSF and the health authorities in Ankoro have given measles vaccinations to a total of 22,100 children between the ages of six months and 15 years, all of whom also received a dose of vitamin A. The routine vaccination continues to be offered at the main hospital," it said.

According to MSF, its new emergency zones of Kamina Lenge and Mukubu are "just as badly affected by measles and also by malnutrition".

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