Aid agencies are rushing food, water and shelter to thousands of Congolese refugees who have fled to western Uganda. They began crossing the border more than a week ago to escape fighting between government forces and the Al Qaeda-linked ADF rebels.
Multiple agencies are involved in the humanitarian effort. Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said, “We’ve had a very dramatic situation along this border over the last eight days. We saw an estimated 66,000 people fleeing from fighting in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo.”
And they didn’t have time to pack any belongings.
“When the rebels approached a town, people literally fled for their lives. They brought nothing with them. They ran. They went into the bush. They stayed there for several days. We’ve had reports of women giving birth in the bush in these conditions,” he said.
Congolese refugees found along the border are being transported by truck to a transit center.
“This is an area about 250 [to] 300 kilometers, more or less, due west of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We have set up with the Ugandan Red Cross and the Ugandan authorities a small transit center at a place called Bubukwanga, just 20 or so kilometers inland from the border itself. But this is a temporary facility only. It’s already becoming over-stretched because of the numbers of people who have been brought in there,” said Edwards.”
Besides UNHCR, other agencies involved in the humanitarian effort include the World Food Program, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, the Ugandan Red Cross, Oxfam and the Lutheran World Foundation.
The fighting between government forces and ADF rebels is taking place several hundred kilometers north of fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels.