Humanitarian agencies are reporting a steady stream of displaced people entering the town of Dungu in northeastern DRC. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing rebel attacks. Now, aid agencies are facing major logistical problems in transporting emergency aid to those in need.
Jim Farrell of the World Food Program spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about what he saw Monday in Dungu.
“I went down to the southern perimeter of Dungu because I had heard that there was a stream of refugees coming into this town. And in fact it is almost a continuous stream of people pouring in,” he says.
Earlier estimates said there were about 20,000 displaced people in and around Dungu. Updated figures put the number around 25,000.
Displacement is blamed on attacks by Ugandan LRA rebels. Farrell says, “Back in mid-December, the Ugandan army and Congo army went after the Lord’s Resistance Army. In effect what they did was , they drove them out of their main bases. They smashed it into small, separate groups. So, now you have groups of four or five of these rebels wandering into various villages, terrorizing them, killing, burning, robbing, raping.”
As a result, residents of the attacked towns and villages are fleeing to areas such as Dungu. There are also reports of another 20,000 displaced people further south.
Farrell says that it’s “extremely difficult” to organize relief operations in northeastern Congo. “The road network in this area is just barely marginal. There is a dirt airstrip for flying in food aid. They had a system set up where they were going to be flying in food aid in here to feed the 20,000 existing displaced people. Now suddenly those numbers are jumping up and World Food program and also United Nations High Commission for Refugees and UNICEF are all trying to figure out how to go ahead and rebalance their books. How to go ahead and ramp-up the operation,” he says.
A truck convoy carrying 70 tons of food arrived in Dungu Monday. It took the convoy six days to travel 500 kilometers.
“That convoy is now going to make another trip. We have an air bridge that’s starting up on Friday to fly food aid in from Entebbe, Uganda. And they’re looking at…doing food drops into the more isolated areas sometime after that. And that will become particularly important when the rainy season hits and we use the use of the roads,” Farrell says.
Dungu will be one of several main centers for distributing emergency aid, along with the towns of Faradje and Duruma. Both towns were attacked by the LRA.
The WFP spokesman describes the condition of the displaced he saw entering Dungu. “Frightened, exhausted…The men looked angry and depressed. I was talking with people who have been up in some of the towns that were hit by this and they say the people are just absolutely traumatized. So, not only do they need medical care…and food, but it also looks like they also need a certain amount of psychological counseling… These people are terrified,” he says.