The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has warned that disease could break out among thousands of refugees fleeing the violence in their east Congo villages and pouring across the border into Uganda.

ugandaMany refugees crossed a game park full of wild animals to reach the relative safety of the border town of Ishasha, and have had to put up makeshift shelters of sticks and polythene bags to keep off the sun and rain.

A ceasefire declared by Tutsi rebel General Laurent Nkunda has halted fighting with government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, but his fighters have attacked militia allies of the government, sending refugees fleeing east into Uganda.

“In the last three days, we have seen over 15,000 refugees coming in and we fear that any disease could break out due to poor sanitary conditions and congestion,” UNHCR field officer Yumiko Takashima told Reuters in the border district of Kanungu.

Chaotic scenes are common among the refugees as aid workers distribute food relief at Ishasha Primary School.”I came two days ago and have eaten only one meal. I cannot even find my daughter and wife. Why doesn’t the international community solve Congo’s problems once and for all?” said a worried and angry Foustine Lumbala.

Takashima said U.N. agencies were distributing what food and water they had but the number of people in need was overwhelming.

A lack of clean drinking water and adequate toilets, common when large numbers of refugees are on the move, can lead rapidly to outbreaks of diseases like cholera, which has been reported around Goma, the provincial capital in recent months.



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