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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC assists the wounded in Bunia

01-02-2001 News Release 01/04

On 19 January 2001, violent clashes once again broke out between ethnic groups — mainly the Lendu and the Hema — in and around the town of Bunia, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There were heavy casualties, especially among civilians. These serious incidents follow upon a whole series of massacres that have afflicted the two communities since 1999.

An ICRC medical team went to work the same day, providing medical facilities in Bunia with emergency supplies to deal with the influx of wounded. On 22 January, an ICRC aircraft delivered medical supplies for 200 patients. Meanwhile, staff from the National Red Cross Society removed bodies from the city streets and buried them so as to head off the threat of an epidemic. The president of the Ituri local branch and 21 volunteers worked uninterruptedly all through last week in extremely difficult conditions. In all, they disposed of the remains of more than 200 people in various parts of the city.

The resumption of hostilities also caused the displacement of part of the region's civilian population. More than 2,000 people found refuge in two schools in Bunia, where the ICRC quickly installed cooking facilities and set up tents.

In the region controlled by the armed opposition, the ICRC has some 20 delegates manning a mission in Goma and offices in Bukavu, Bunia, Kalemie, Kisangani, and Uvira. In government-controlled areas, the ICRC has some 20 staff in the Kinshasa delegation and the Lubumbashi sub-delegation.