Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aid Agencies Say Refugees Still Need Help in Rwanda `People Are Dying Because They're out of Touch'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aid Agencies Say Refugees Still Need Help in Rwanda `People Are Dying Because They're out of Touch'

Article excerpt

Out of food and out of touch, up to 700,000 Rwandan refugees still face death in eastern Zaire, aid agencies said Monday. The agencies urged Western powers to stick to their plans to send soldiers quickly to central Africa.

Ragged columns of refugees returning home, many exhausted, hungry and with bleeding feet, stretched 35 miles into Rwanda. But those still trapped in eastern Zaire were in even greater danger, aid workers said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Monday in Washington that military offic ials from Canada, the United States and about a dozen other nations would meet Thursday in Germany to assess the rapidly changing need for an international military force in Zaire to assist in relief efforts. Representatives of nations that have offered to send forces to support a U.N.-authorized relief effort in Zaire and possibly Rwanda will meet at U.S. European military headquarters in Stuttgart, Army Lt. Col. Nancy Burt, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said. Although the crush of refugees has eased since the weekend, more than 5,000 people an hour poured across the border Monday, U.N. officials said. About 500,000 Hutu refugees - many barefoot in the rough, volcanic soil - have walked home to Rwanda since Friday after escaping from Hutu militants who once dominated the world's largest refugee camp. Aid officials say an international humanitarian force must now focus on the refugees in Zaire's hills and forests south and west of Lake Kivu, 60 to 120 miles south of Gisenyi. "People are dying because they're out of touch, with no food or water," said Peter Kessler, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "We need the kind of protection that could be provided by an international force." Canada, which was to command the international force, and the United States, which had offered up to 4,000 military personnel, agree that a humanitarian relief effort is still needed, but officials in Rwanda think otherwise. …

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