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After Month-Long Insurgency, Congolese Return to Calm but Barren Villages

Action Against Hunger seeks to alleviate growing nutritional emergency

Refugees from the eastern province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo returned to their homes this week only to find that government and rebel troops had stolen their belongings, pilfered or destroyed at least sixty percent of the harvested crops, and looted a number of hospitals and therapeutic feeding centers run by Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF) , according to an evaluation conducted by the international humanitarian organization.

Most residents of the South Kivu province often have only one meal a day, down from two or three, and flour now costs five times what it did before a recent insurgency in the area. The ACF therapeutic feeding centers were looted of supplies, including medicines, food and furniture.

It is estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 inhabitants between Bwegera and Kamanyola fled their homes in June after rebel forces led by Col. Jules Mutebusi seized the town of Bukavu. Both rebel and government forces are said to have left houses absolutely and systematically plundered, taking cooking utensils, livestock, and household objects, as well as from the remaining unharvested crops, according to a report by ACF.

“The displacement of people, loss of belongings, food insecurity and a growing cholera epidemic are suspected to bring about health and nutritional weaknesses for months to come,” ACF security officer Samuel Cadassou said.

In response to the growing crisis, ACF plans to provide medicines and equipment to health and feeding centers, as well as guarantee free medical care for returning refugees for at least three months. It also is trying to track population movements and help reunite unaccompanied children with their families.

Present in the DR Congo since the beginning of the war, Action Against Hunger is carrying out programs of nutrition, water/sanitation, health, and food security, bringing assistance to over 500,000 people.

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