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Uganda: Congolese refugees receive emergency aid

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, July 10, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Following renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past few days, more than 16,500 Congolese refugees have fled into western Uganda through the Bunagana, Katwe and Bukazi border posts.

''The recent fighting, which was heavy and unexpected, resulted in thousands of people, including many women and children, entering Uganda within a very short time," said Riccardo Conti, the head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Uganda. "They arrive destitute, because they have to leave everything behind when they flee the country. Quite apart from problems relating to accommodation, hygiene and food supply, the issue of family members becoming separated from one another as they flee is also already being felt in the camps."

Nearly 500 people have so far used a dedicated phone service set up by the Uganda Red Cross Society and the ICRC to call loved ones across the border and let them know they arrived safely in the country. In addition, almost 90 minors who had been living unaccompanied in camps in Uganda have been reunited with family members living in other camps.

Together with the Uganda Red Cross, the ICRC has also provided tarpaulins for some 500 families and blankets for 1,500 people to enable some of the refugees to set up temporary shelter, and distributed medical supplies to support the hospitals of the Kisoro District and Mutolere Mission.

ICRC and Ugandan Red Cross staff are on the ground and in regular contact with the Ugandan authorities. Both organizations are constantly monitoring the situation in the border areas and refugee camps to determine what further help is needed.

The ICRC has been working in Uganda since 1979. It promotes greater awareness of international humanitarian law among the authorities, the armed forces, academics and civil society, in addition to supporting the national committee for the implementation of international humanitarian law in its efforts to incorporate provisions of that body of law in national legislation.