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IDPs go without food, water following killing of UN troops

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NAIROBI, 28 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Several NGOs operating in Ituri, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Orientale Province, have suspended aid to thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) following Friday's killing of nine UN peacekeepers, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Monday.

OCHA said security concerns by the NGOs had left the IDPs without food and drinking water.

The OCHA humanitarian affairs officer in Bunia, Modibo Traore, said some 65,000 people were directly affected by the worsening security situation, mainly in Kafe, Tche and Gina camps, all of which are between 40 to 70 km north and northeast of Bunia - the main town in Ituri near the Ugandan border.

Traore said NGOs operating in the region had stopped all field activities in the affected area north of Bunia.

"Kafe and Tche camps have no more medical supply after the team of Doctors Without Borders had to pull out," he said. "Tche camp is also without clean water supply due to a broken pump. Oxfam, which maintained the pump has, now, no more access. This will have grave consequences in terms of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases."

One of the affected NGOs, German Agro Action, had just distributed food to 2,950 families (about five people per family) in Kakwa Camp when the Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers were ambushed in Kafe village nearby. Nine soldiers died and 11 others were wounded.

"We immediately had to cancel the food distribution, which was planned for another 650 families," Rudi Stelz, the acting coordinator of the German-based NGO, told IRIN on Monday. "Our work is very restricted now."

Stelz also recalled an incident in which staff from German Agro Action were held hostage by militias from the Hema community on Wednesday in Lopa, about 70 km north of Bunia.

He said the humanitarian aid workers were distributing food to 1,600 families when militiamen belonging to the Union patriotique congolais (UPC) "forced them to lay down on the ground, verbally abused them and wanted to use the trucks of the humanitarian aid workers".

Stelz said, "We had to call MONUC [UN Mission in the DRC] troops for help."

The militiamen fled when members of the Moroccan UN peacekeeping contingent responded to the aid workers.

Stelz said the atmosphere in Bunia had become "much more charged" since the killing of the peacekeepers.

"On Saturday, a group of Lendu people were attacked by Hemas in one of Bunia's markets, stripped and chased naked through the town. This is an ominous sign," he said.

Traore said OCHA convened a meeting on Monday of the humanitarian actors working in the camps north of Bunia to assess security.

While the aid workers wait for the security situation to improve, the fate of the IDPs gets worse. Stelz said several food security programmes, which included the distribution of seeds and tools to 13,000 families north of Bunia, had to be suspended at a crucial time - the start of the rainy season.


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