DR Congo

Thousands flee attacks in the DRC

News and Press Release
Originally published
Kalonge, February 2000 - An estimated 25,000 people have fled villages north of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, amid a wave of vicious attacks by groups of armed men. Those fleeing are accusing the Interhamwe (Hutu militias) of carrying out the assaults. The violence in the Kalonge area began sporadically in late December but the International Rescue Committee team there says the attacks appear to be gaining intensity, forcing increasing numbers of people to flee.
"I have no idea where we are going," said this mother of seven. "I only knew we had to leave."

The IRC was carrying out routine field work in the region in recent weeks when staff members came upon hundreds of people trudging along roads and through forest with all the belongings they could carry. They spoke of horrific attacks in which family and neighbors were slaughtered, women were raped, and homes were looted and burned.

Most of the displaced have been able to find shelter with local populations in the Kabare and Katana zones, but Linda Poteat, deputy director for the IRC in Congo, says the host families are poor themselves and don't have the means to feed and care for their guests. The IRC is currently supporting primary health care centers in Kabare and is extending medical services to the new arrivals. With cases of measles on the rise among the displaced, the IRC is encouraging them and host families to bring in their children for vaccinations. The IRC is carrying out a vaccination campaign in Katana on February 14-16.

Ms. Poteat says there will be an urgent need for food and shelter as more displaced people arrive. The IRC is also working with local health authorities to identify water and sanitation needs among the displaced and host populations.

John Keys, Regional Director, Great Lakes
e-Mail: jkeys@intrescom.org