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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

BURUNDI: Ex-rebels decry poor hygiene in assembly points

BUJUMBURA, 19 January 2004 (IRIN) - Poor hygiene in pre-cantonment assembly points for former combatants loyal to Pierre Nkurunziza has led to deaths of up to three men every week since 1 January, a spokesman for the former rebel movement told IRIN on Sunday.

"The situation is alarming," Gelase Daniel Ndabirabe, the spokesman of the Conseil national de defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), said.

His comment came in an appeal to the UN World Health Organization (WHO) to supply medical aid to the assembly points. He said the men were dying of diseases such as dysentery, cholera and malaria.

"We don't understand why WHO is not supplying medicines to our combatants while there is a budget to buy medicine for the combatants grouped in pre-cantonment sites," Ndabirabe said.

He added that the poor hygiene at the assembly points and the lack of medicine could undermine the cantonment process.

"Our combatants will not trust us, they won't come to the cantonment areas or they will simply quit the assembling zones when they see their colleagues dying," he said.

Ndabirabe said some 18,000 combatants had already reported to six assembly points in south, east and central Burundi, and that those in the southern province of Makamba were the most affected.

The WHO office in Burundi said medicines for the former fighters were available but humanitarian NGOs were unavailable to begin supplying them to the sites.

"We are aware of this precarious situation," Dr Kossi Ayigan, the WHO officer in charge of emergencies and humanitarian aid, told IRIN. "Before we had the problem of funds but it has been solved, we hope that within a few days, together with humanitarian NGOs, we will take medicine to combatants in assembling zones."

Nkurunziza's faction of the CNDD-FDD signed a power-sharing agreement with the transitional government in November 2003, following which it's top officials were incorporated into government institutions and it agreed to the cantonment of its troops for later integration into government forces. The cantonment process was to have been completed early in January.

 

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition

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