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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 18:51 GMT
Burundi camps 'too dire' to help
The camps are based around the capital Bujumbura

The aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres has pulled out of the government "regroupment" camps in Burundi because conditions are so poor.

The organisation, which has been providing medical relief to more than 50,000 civilians in three camps for the past two months, says it has been unable to make any headway in improving their situation.

However, the United Nations World Food Programme is to resume food distribution in the camps following a five-week halt.

The MSF moved in after about 300,000 mostly-Hutu civilians were forced from their villages into about 50 resettlement camps around the capital Bujumbura in September.

The Tutsi-dominated government said the move, enforced by the army, was part of its efforts to crack down on attacks by Hutu rebels.

MSF - Doctors Without Borders - agreed to provide emergency relief, but on Friday said conditions still fell below the "vital minimum" to prevent disease and malnutrition.

Lack of water and shelter

MSF said people in the camps had little access to healthcare and could not go to work in their fields. The camps were overcrowded, with insufficient drinking water and shelter, even though the rainy season was beginning.

MSF also said that the regroupment camps had deprived the people of their most basic human rights, and were therefore "in complete opposition with the principles of the MSF charter".

It also said fighting between rebels and government forces had prevented aid workers from travelling to the more remote camps.

But it said it would continue its activities elsewhere in Burundi and would be prepared to intervene "in case of epidemic emergencies".

Aid workers shot dead

The UN WFP handouts were halted after two aid workers were shot dead while visiting a regroupment camp in Rutana, 90 miles southeast of the capital.

WFP said that although it opposed the regroupment of civilians, the food was urgently needed.

It has made new arrangements with other organisations to provide the aid, pending a full lifting of the suspension of UN activities in Burundi.

At least 250,000 people have died in Burundi since 1993, in fighting between the army and the rebels.

Hutus make up the vast majority of Burundi's population of 6.5m, but Tutsis dominate the government and army.

The authorities established the regroupment camps in the belief that the rebels, who recently stepped up their attacks in and around the capital, use the villages to hide behind

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See also:
12 Nov 99 |  Africa
Burundian relocation camp attacked
12 Nov 99 |  Africa
More flee fighting in Burundi
08 Nov 99 |  Africa
Twelve killed in Burundi ambush
13 Nov 99 |  Africa
UN alarmed over Burundi camps

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