Friday, December 5, 2008

Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) fear epidemic as Congo refugee camp hit by cholera

Doctors fear epidemic as Congo refugee camp hit by cholera

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:22 PM on 10th November 2008

Doctors are struggling to contain an outbreak of cholera in the sprawling Kibati refugee camp in  Congo.

Renewed fighting near the camp, located near the eastern provincial capital of Goma, has sparked fears that patients could scatter and launch an epidemic.

Some 50,000 refugees have crowded around Kibati, some taken into log cabins by villagers, others living in tents or hastily built huts.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it treated 13 new cases of cholera in Kibati yesterday and has seen 45 cases since Friday.

An old man get suffering from cholera gets treatment at a Doctors without Borders clinic in Kibati just north of Goma in eastern Congo

An old man suffering from cholera gets treatment at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Kibati just north of Goma in eastern Congo

The agency's Dr. Rafaela Gentilini said shortages of water and latrines were making the outbreak 'really dangerous'.

Dozens of people have died of cholera in recent weeks elsewhere in eastern Congo.

Doctors also fear an epidemic behind rebel lines, where access has been limited by fighting and rebels have driven tens of thousands of people from camps where outbreaks had been contained.

Congolese soldiers and rebels were yesterday seen less than 800m apart near Goma, where rebel leader Laurent Nkunda declared a ceasefire on Oct. 29 as his forces reached the edge of the city.

Rebels and soldiers clashed Thursday just north of Kibati refugee camp. Soldiers who retreated last week were yesterday digging in at a new front line.

Congolese government forces man the front line north of the village of Kibati, north of Goma

Congolese government forces man the front line north of Goma

Yesterday troops hung around on the line, collecting pay, smoking marijuana and looking unconcerned about the rebels, who were gathering less than a kilometre away.

'I'm ready, ready to kill Nkunda!' said 1st Sgt. Claude Kazunga, 33, raising his AK-47. 'If they provoke us, we will push them back.'

Other soldiers hoped for a more peaceful solution.

'The (heavy) weapons that are being fired around here, we are killing our own parents,' said Lt. Jean-Paul Briki. 'There must be negotiations.'

 

The fighting in eastern Congo is fuelled by ethnic hatred left over from the 1994 slaughter of at least 500,000 Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda.

Nkunda, whose rebels launched an offensive Aug. 28, first said he was fighting to protect minority Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu militants who participated in the genocide before fleeing to Congo.

Congolese government forces shelter from the pouring rain to count their pay, as they man the front line

Congolese government forces shelter from the pouring rain to count their pay, as they man the front line

Now he says he wants to 'liberate' all Congo from an allegedly corrupt government.

He is seeking direct talks with his former comrade-in-arms, President Joseph Kabila, whose government says it will not negotiate with a war criminal.

The U.N. Children's Fund says hundreds of children have lost their parents as more than 250,000 refugees have been forced from their homes in the last 10 weeks.

In Kibati, the International Red Cross distributed enough flour, oil and beans to feed 35,000 people for 10 days.

Yesterday morning, thousands of people packed churches in Kibati and Goma to pray for a halt to the fighting.

Battle-hardened: Fighting between rebels and the government has left tens of thousands of refugees desperate for international aid

Battle-hardened: Fighting between rebels and the government has left tens of thousands of refugees desperate for international aid

But prayers went unheeded, as new clashes erupted 60 kilometres, northwest of Goma, with rebels and Congolese soldiers firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in the village of Ngungu. The rebels also were fighting pro-government Mai Mai militia around the village.

U.N. peacekeepers met with commanders of the three forces and persuaded them to stop after about six hours.

U.N. officials are investigating killings in the last few days at Kiwanja. They say residents first were terrorized by Mai Mai militia who killed people they accused of supporting the rebels - then the rebels won control and killed those they claimed had supported the militia.

Many victims were shot execution-style in the head, residents said. U.N. investigators said at least 26 people were killed, but Human Rights Watch says it believes as many as 50 people died.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1084413/Doctors-fear-epidemic-Congo-refugee-camp-hit-cholera.html
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