The first UN aid convoy to reach the heart of rebel-held territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo arrived yesterday to find refugee camps that had housed tens of thousands of people last week now standing empty.
Stunned aid workers described the camps around Rutshuru that had been sheltering as many as 50,000 people displaced by the relentless fighting, as levelled with all signs of building materials and people gone.
"All the camps are empty. They have all left," said Francis Nakwafio Kasai, a field officer with the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "All the shelters have been destroyed ... nothing remains."
The BBC adds:
Aid workers found refugee camps that had held tens of thousands were virtually empty. Many people are believed to have fled into the forests around the camps fearing further violence.
While as many as 50,000 displaced people reached Goma, many others have tried to return to their homes on foot without safe shelter, food or water.
The recent rebel offensive was exacerbated by a wave of killing, looting and raping by retreating Congolese soldiers.
On Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to hear CNN anchor Don Lemon actually say at the top of the hour that they'd go straight to their election coverage because there was no other news. Well, guess what Don? There's a helluva more going on in the world than your election and whoever wins will have this growing humanitarian crisis to deal with and AFRICOM is (rightly) off to a very rocky start. Having been refused a permanent headquarters on the continent so far, it will remain based in Germany - and with good reason.
So, just how much attention will be paid to regional
Meanwhile, as the power struggle continues, what will be done about these disappearing and dying refugees?
Congo's riches fuel its war