Rwanda: Tingi-Tingi refugees, sick, hungry, brace for armed struggle leaving helpless hutu refugees in carnage

Published on by KANYARWANDA

Tingi-Tingi refugees, sick, hungry, brace for armed struggle

starving February 17, 1997
Web posted at: 8:00 p.m. EST (0100 GMT)

From Correspondent Catherine Bond

TINGI-TINGI, Zaire (CNN) -- Zairian rebels have successfully won several Zairian towns from government control. The rebels, under the leadership of Laurent Kabila, now threaten the city of Kisangani, and in the process, the massive refugee camp Tingi-Tingi.

One of their potential attack routes lies through Tingi- Tingi, which the mostly-Tutsi rebels have already threatened to strike. They accuse the Zairian government of using the camp to shelter and arm Rwandan Hutus.

Zairian forces hit three rebel-held cities

For the estimated 130,000 refugees at Tingi-Tingi, words and guns only distract attention from their primary concern. They are desperate for medicine and food.


Many of the refugees arrived at Tingi-Tingi malnourished from long walks -- often hundreds of miles -- with little food. And the food that was available during their treks was often poor.

At the end of those long walks, said nurse Maria Dusabe, the refugees found medicine and food to be in short supply at the camp as well.

Families struggle to stay together and to survive. Thirteen- year-old Marie-Therese lives at Tingi-Tingi with her father and brother. They lost track of her mother during the first rebel attacks in October.

"After I got separated from my mama and papa in the attack, I was taken by neighbors," she said. "I found my father. We came here step by step."

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Tingi-Tingi's mortality rate has risen. Around 25 children are now dying every day in the camp. If the children get well enough, their mothers take them to supplementary feeding centers because they have virtually nothing to give them in the tents that are now their homes.

Two years ago the efficiency of relief agencies and the generosity of the international community combined to bring the rate of child malnutrition among Rwandan refugees down to that of Switzerland. Now, there is still plenty of money and food, but the food is not reaching the camp.


It's estimated that the refugees need a hundred tons of food a day, but on average only 16 are being delivered. Relief workers are critical of the United Nations' failure to get more food in.

"We know the situation in Zaire is difficult," said Jean- Clement Cabrol of Doctors Without Borders, "but for the moment (there is) nothing for the protection of people." (10 sec. /160K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

The front line is only 40 miles away, and for security reasons, aid workers fly in and out rather than remain at the camp. The malnutrition, they say, is the result of Zairian government bureaucracy and the United Nation's poor handling of the logistics of moving food.



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