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NGO suspends operations in camp for 7,000 IDPs

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BUNIA, 8 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Humanitarian NGO Atlas Logistic has said it has suspended all aid to internally displaced people at Camp Aéro, adjacent to the Bunia's airport, in the troubled northeastern district of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We think that for the moment there has been considerable progress in efforts to restore the socioeconomic and security situation in Bunia and in the rest of Ituri District so we prefer, right now, to encourage people to return to their homes," Hellène Robin, the head of the NGO in Bunia, told reporters on Wednesday.

She said the suspension would last until 31 August. Those who agree to return home would be given two months food rations, agricultural tools and cooking utensils.

Camp Aéro, on the south side of Bunia, was set up in May 2003 and has hosted some 20,000 IDPs. The number of people in the camp has dropped considerably over the past few months since the army and UN troops began confronting armed groups in the area. The operations has weakened the armed groups and encouraged most IDPs to return to their homes. Now, only 7,000 remain at the camp and say they will not go home.

"Before the war, I rented a home for my entire family but now I do not have any money. If I return home where will I sleep?" Ngona Busu, who has been living in the camp with his family for the past two years, said.

Faustin Malobi, a member of the Committee of Displaced Persons at the camp, added: "I come from Djugu Territory, approximately 75 km West of Bunia, where militiamen are still present; we will leave only when the army is deployed there."

Other attractions of Camp Aéro are basic amenities such as clean drinking water, food, electricity and free shelter. These are amenities many of the IDPs do not have in their home areas. In addition, they are able to engage in untaxed petty trade around the camp. However, their continued presence will be short-lived, a town official said.

"When the humanitarian organizations leave the camp, we apply the law to force the IDPs to leave," Simbiliyo Duka, head of the town of Bunia, said.


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