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Humanitarian Crisis in DRC Worsens


The international medical organization Doctors Without Borders says the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is rapidly deteriorating. An armed conflict in the east of the country has recently intensified, forcing hundreds of thousands of Congolese to flee their homes. Many are now suffering from severe malnutrition and disease. Selah Hennessy brings this report for VOA from the regional capital Goma.

Hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Congo have been forced to flee their homes in recent months because of an ongoing conflict between the army and rebel forces.

In the past, local communities have provided food and shelter for displaced civilians.

But in recent weeks the conflict has intensified, and the number of displaced people has sky-rocketed, far exceeding the capacity of local communities to host them.

Fighting has also forced aid organizations to suspend activities in large parts of the region.

This means that thousands of people living in displacement camps are without food and health care.

Doctors Without Borders spokesman Francois Dumont says the situation is alarming.

"There are many other areas where thousands of people are now displaced where we cannot go because of security reasons because of the fighting, and that means that these people are out of reach and we are deeply concerned about these people," he said.

Dumont says major problems are malnutrition and, in some places, cholera.

Cholera, a bacterial disease, is normally transmitted through dirty water.

In the northeastern region Ritshuru, the population has doubled in the last month because of displacement. Dumont says during that time, more than 1,000 people have been treated for cholera.

"This malnutrition and these outbreaks, like cholera in Ritshuru, are directly linked to the vulnerability of the people and the new displacement of population. Because when, for example in Rishuru, the city has more than doubled in the last month that means there is less quantity of water per person, there is less good hygiene conditions within the displaced population; that means that diseases like cholera are developing," said Dumont.

Cholera, if not treated, is fatal in 50 percent of the cases.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees toured the eastern DRC last week.

He called for an end to fighting in the region and pledged to improve living standards for the hundreds of thousands civilians living in displaced persons camps.

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