Nairobi — Aid workers have fled Gety, in the Ituri District of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after attacks by armed gangs. They have retreated to Bunia, the district capital, 60 km northwest, and are trying to find a way to continue assisting more than 40,000 displaced people, an official said.
"We were attacked by armed groups and it could happen again at any time," Patrick Albert, the head of Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Gety, said on Friday.
"The health of the displaced people there is terrible and they now have grossly insufficient food," he said.
"Many only recently emerged from the forest where they had been hiding for up to four months," he said. "They are fragile and the mortality rate is high."
At least 10 people are dying every day in displacement camps in Gety, the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA) said in August. "It's higher than the norm," Modibo Traore, the head of OCHA in Bunia, said.
The area 30 km south of Gety is teeming with fighters from the Front résistance patriotique en Ituri and their Mouvement révolutionnaire congolais allies. Their presence has made it impossible for many displaced persons to reach humanitarian organisations in Gety.
OCHA said the displaced would continue to depend on humanitarian aid as the planting season had started and it was unsafe for them to cultivate their fields.
Albert said at least 10 men came to the MSF compound late on Monday armed with Kalashnikovs assault rifles. "They demanded money," he said. "I gave them all the cash we had in our coffers, which was up to US $1000, but they still wanted more."
All nine MSF expatriates left the following day, he said, as they are the target for armed groups. Expatriates working for the NGO Solidarité had also left, he added, although some from Medair and Coopi had stayed.
MSF's national staff are still in Gety, providing people who are severely malnourished with emergency help. They are also providing potable water and health services to children younger than five but the staff have provisions for only another five days, Albert said.
The army is in the area, he said, but he did not know of any troops there from the United Nations Mission in the DRC.
In Bunia, the army spokesman for Ituri, Capt Charles Boyeka, said on Friday: "We are providing security in the camp and a two-kilometre area around it but the problem is that there are militiamen hiding amongst the displaced population."
He said the army had not yet been informed of Monday's attack.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]