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Caritas aids people trapped by war in Guinea-Bissau

 Caritas Guinea-Bissau is bringing aid to some 30,000 people in the towns of Varela and Suzana, where fighting along the country's northern border with Senegal have left local populations completely isolated. In recent weeks, Guinea-Bissau's military has launched heavy attacks around the town of Sao Domingos, where rebels from Senegal's Casamance region recently spilled over the border to flee an onslaught from Senegalese troops. Both sides are reported to have laid mines in the region to fortify their positions. Some 11,000 people who fled the area around Sao Domingos ended up in Suzana and Varela, where in addition to about 21,000 local people, they remain fenced in by the Senegalese border to the north, fighting and landmines in the conflict zone to the east, and a river to the south. "The people feel completely abandoned, especially since for the entire month since conflict erupted, not one state or local official has appeared to explain what is happening or to protect the local populations," said Father Jose Fumagalli, head of the Catholic mission in Suzana. The displaced are being hosted by local families, but food reserves and other supplies, such as medical items, are already nearly exhausted, Fumagalli said. "People are starting to want to get up and leave," he continued. "The road hasn't been closed officially, but we know it's been mined." Caritas Guinea-Bissau said it needs to supply about 8500 people with basic relief items, including food, clothes, medicine, mats, soap and cooking utensils. It also needs to mobilize a fleet of canoes to transport supplies to the isolated areas via the river. In addition, Caritas said it will provide transport for local products to market areas so that the economy doesn't come to a complete standstill. "People here are already at subsistence level, and they need to sell their products, such as palm wine, cashews and smoked fish, in order to scrape by. Prices are already going up due to their isolation," Father Fumagalli said. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories. Source: VIS