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Photostory: Fleeing from Ituri, DRC
Over 100,000 people are currently displaced from their homes in Ituri province as result of violence that erupted in December 2017.
“This is the first time I’ve fled DRC”, explains 53 year-old Imani who lived through the war in Ituri in the 2000s. “It’s different this time. In the 2000s our homes were torched too, but we were able to go back to our villages. Now people are being hunted down and killed. The attackers chase us with dogs into the forest.”
Over 100,000 people are currently displaced from their homes in Ituri province, DRC, as result of violence that erupted in December 2017. After a lull in January it flared up again in February of this year.
Those affected made their way north towards Mahagi or south towards Bunia, whereas others headed for Lake Albert and the relative safety of Uganda.
We have heard accounts of houses systematically torched and people hunted down into the forest and murdered. But for many of the refugees arriving in Uganda, these events are more than a resurgence of the historical tensions that for many decades have opposed Lendu and Hema communities in the region.
Our teams are working in and around Bunia, and also around Mahagi, supporting healthcare, undertaking water and sanitation work and distributing items of basic necessity such as blankets and soap.
Displaced people are living on informal sites, with host families or are sheltering in churches and schools.
Some have been in these conditions for over a month now and there is a very real risk that their health could soon start to deteriorate and we will start seeing cases of severe malnutrition, or a measles or cholera epidemic.
In the town of Bunia, there are two camps to house thousands of internally displaced. In both, we have built toilets and showers and teams are also helping to ensure the camps have a safe water supply.
People have fled with nothing. They need safe drinking water, food and shelter, as well as healthcare.
In Bunia, we are supporting three health centres with personnel, including nurses and midwives. As many as 40 percent of the patients we see have malaria, while others are suffering from respiratory infections and diarrhoea.
Since we arrived in February, our teams have undertaken over 2,000 outpatient consultations, and helped treat 77 people wounded as a result of violence.
Pregnant women are also among those who fled their homes to safety, and we are providing antenatal care and assisting with deliveries in the supported health centres in Bunia.
This 11-year-old girl is recovering in hospital in Bunia. She lost her mother, her three siblings and her left hand during an attack on her village.
We are also working around the areas of Tchomia, Kasenyi, Angumu and Mahagi Port, where the focus is on cholera prevention and treatment.
Teams are ensuring access to clean water and are preparing in case of an outbreak. Here an MSF nurse can be seen checking on cholera patients in an MSF-supported cholera centre in Tchomia, on the shores of Lake Albert.
As some people are left with nothing, we have been distributing basic necessities such as blankets and soap to the displaced in a number of different areas.
Most recently, 1,600 kits were distributed to people living in an informal settlement in Kasenyi on the lakeside.
Over 50,000 people have fled by boat across Lake Albert to Uganda since mid-December. Reception facilities in Uganda are overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals, and health authorities recently confirmed a cholera outbreak in the region, which left at least 36 people dead and nearly 1,800 severe cases admitted to hospital.
We have responded to the outbreak, and are also providing basic healthcare to the refugees as well as vaccinations. With inadequate access to food and shelter, the situation remains dire.