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Riots Halt Food Deliveries in Rwandan Camps With PM-Rwanda-Troubled Return, Bjt

August 17, 1994

GOMA, Zaire (AP) _ Food distribution to some 350,000 Rwandan refugees in two wretched camps was suspended today because of riots and thefts by machete-wielding gangs, the United Nations said.

″Security is continuing to deteriorate in the camps,″ said Panos Moumtzis, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, following Tuesday’s riots.

With food in short supply, distributions of rations in the camps near this eastern Zaire border town have been increasingly accompanied by disturbances as refugees scramble for their share.

Food deliveries were temporarily halted before following the beating deaths of refugees in other fights.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said about 100 young men armed with machetes and pickaxes hijacked 20 tons of food from its trucks at Kibumba Camp on Tuesday.

″What is clear now is that there is organized vandalism in the camps, organized by groups of young men,″ Moumtzis said. ″We’re meeting to see how we can improve security.″

In the meantime, he said, food distributions at Kibumba and Kitale camps had been temporarily halted.

″Security won’t improve until the refugees are registered,″ said Alistair Gordon Gibson, relief coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. ″Until then, this kind of chaos will continue.″

Moumtzis also said about 100,000 people in Kibumba camp would be vaccinated in the next few days against meningitis, which already has killed about 30 victims.

Meningitis causes an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain or spinal cord, or both. It can result in death, brain damage or paralysis.

Moumtzis said those to be vaccinated would be the most vulnerable, between 6 months and 35 years of age. He said about 7,000 people already could be infected and even with proper antibiotic treatment, 10 percent could die.

″We’ve had a worst case scenario in terms of health in the camps,″ Moumtzis said, noting previous epidemics of cholera and dysentery, plus outbreaks of pneumonia and other diseases.

About 30,000 men, women and children already have died of dehydration, malnutrition and disease in the filthy camps that house about 850,000 refugees.