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Aid workers struggle to reach IDPs in South Kivu

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Photo: IRC
Displaced people fleeing the fighting in eastern DRC
BUKAVU, 25 July 2007 (IRIN) - Continued insecurity and poor roads have been restricting humanitarian access to thousands of internally displaced people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to an official of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Getting to areas where the latest displacement of the population has occurred is hampered by activities of armed groups and the fact that roads in these areas are very poor," Claude Mululu, liaison officer in OCHA's Bukavu office, told IRIN on 25 July.

He said the most recent areas to be affected were around the town of Minembwe, about 150km south of Bukavu, the provincial capital, following reports of fighting between the Congolese army, FARDC, and militia.

"However, we cannot be certain about the exact number of those displaced, since most of them fled into the bush," he said.

Olivier Byabagabo, a representative of a local non-governmental organisation based in Minembwe, said thousands of villagers headed towards the town immediately after the clashes.

"They came from 10 villages that were systematically devastated and sometimes burnt," he said. "These displaced people are without assistance, they do not have anything to eat and they are without shelter with their children."

General Sylvain Tshikwej, commander of the 10th Military Region of the FARDC, which incorporates South Kivu, said calm had returned to Minembwe and some of the displaced were returning home.

"We are still conducting operations against the dissidents, but the situation is now calm. We hope to overpower these people in the shortest time possible," Tshikwej said.

FARDC reports indicated that 20 militia had been killed in the latest fighting around Minembwe and that FARDC was gaining ground, having recaptured some villages from the militia.

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