In the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in the south of neighboring Sudan, Ugandan rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been perpetrating acts of extreme violence on civilians in response to operations conducted against them by national armies of the DRC, Uganda, and southern Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to seek refuge in camps or with host families and are living in extremely difficult conditions. Several Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams operating in DRC and in Sudan are providing emergency assistance and free medical services to displaced people and to local residents.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
In Dungu, a town located in the northeast of Haut-Uélé district in DRC, an MSF team composed of eight international staff and 60 Congolese staff have been providing assistance to the population since September 2008. MSF is supporting the general hospital where 60 surgical interventions, including 25 caesareans, have been carried out in three weeks. Thirty children have been admitted to the pediatric ward and 52 severely malnourished children have been registered to the nutritional program.
MSF also supports medical activities in two health centers in the vicinity of Dungu, providing primary heath care and medical and mental health support to victims of sexual violence.
The MSF team is currently assessing the situation in settlements where displaced people have sought refuge to the south of the town. Where security allows, they are also conducting measles vaccination campaigns and distributing basic items such as plastic sheeting, basins and soap. In addition, they are working to improve hygiene conditions for displaced people and monitoring the risk of epidemics.
Once medical activities in Dungu are well established the team will evaluate the needs in Ndigima and Duru, north of Dungu. They are currently conducting assessments in the areas of Dingila, Limay, Bangadi, and Doruma.
Since May 11, a team of 14 MSF workers has been supporting the general reference hospital of Niangara, close to the Sudanese border. The team is offering free medical care, including emergency surgery and care for victims of sexual violence. MSF has also put in place the pharmacy in the general hospital and has trained local medical staff in recognizing the most common diseases, such as malaria, acute respiratory infections, and sexually transmitted infections.
In addition, an MSF team is supporting a health center in Wawe that provides medical assistance to the displaced people in that area.
In Niangara, the medical needs are very acute. The MSF team is carrying out about 1,000 consultations a week, mainly for displaced people. There are currently 10,000 displaced people in the center of Niangara and 15,000 in the outskirts.
To the east, six MSF international staff are supporting the general reference hospital in Faradje and providing free medical care. On average, they are providing more than 1,000 consultations per week; about a third of the patients are children under the age of five. Malaria, acute respiratory infections and intestinal infections are commonly seen; all can be deadly if left untreated.
The MSF team has also strived to improve quality of care in the hospital and has prepared an emergency set-up, with which the hospital could receive and treat a sudden influx of injured people.
Between 22,000 to 25,000 people have fled violence in Faradje and Aba, and have sought refuge in Ariwara and Imbokolo areas, in neighboring Ituri district. An MSF team of 55 is providing these people with medical assistance, nutritional support, and vaccination against measles. MSF has also distributed basic items and improved hygiene conditions in camps.
Towards the end of 2008, attacks by Ugandan rebels on numerous villages near the Congolese border and also in the Democratic Republic of Congo itself, caused thousands of Sudanese people to flee their homes and Congolese refugees to cross the border and seek refuge in Sudan. There were 1,000 people between December and January, and, in response to this, MSF started supporting two primary health care clinics in Gangura and Sakura, in Sudan’s Western Equatoria State, close to the border with DRC.
Since January 2009, more and more people have fled violence in many of the counties of Western Equatorial State. As internally displaced people and refugees moved to other areas, MSF finished its intervention in Gangura and Sakura and opened in February 2009 new projects in Ezo, Naandi, and Makpandu, assisting a total of around 22,000 people living in camps.
Living conditions in the camps are squalid and precarious at best, and MSF is installing water and sanitation facilities. The team is closely monitoring the situation in order to respond adequately in case it deteriorates further, while also continuing to assess the humanitarian situation in neighboring areas.
The MSF team supports health centres in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and provides drugs, medical, and logistical material. They run weekly mobile medical clinics where they refer sick patients and provide supervision and training to health staff. MSF is also monitoring the risk of epidemics, doing massive vaccination against measles, and providing psychological support to victims of violence and abuse.
In February 2009 MSF teams in neighboring Central Equatorial State also began assisting Congolese refugees in Lasu, approximately 50 km (30 miles) from the Congolese border, with urgent medical and non-medical support. Initially, MSF assisted in two temporary camp locations in Libogo and Nyori where more than 6,000 people had sought refuge. In both locations the majority of refugees arrived from Congo without any of the essential basics needed for everyday life.
MSF teams distributed 1,250 bars of soap, while other organizations distributed kits with essential items such as blankets to women and children.
In Libogo, MSF teams quickly repaired a borehole in the area to provide clean water to the more than 2,000 people gathered there.
In Nyori, people were seeking shelter under trees, so MSF constructed five shelters with 66 subdivisions—each subdivision accommodating one to two families. MSF also connected a water network from the local stream to the school where people were seeking shelter and built 10 shower rooms and 10 latrines.
In March the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) created one camp in Nyori to host the Congolese refugees together. Inside this camp MSF set up a health facility with inpatient capacity and a pharmacy. This facility provides an average of 500 consultations a week, antenatal care, deliveries and treatment for malnutrition. MSF teams also constructed all 39 communal latrines for the camp and drilled two new boreholes.
In addition, MSF organized six health promoters who move throughout the camp, raising awareness of tuberculosis, malaria, and water-borne diseases.
In April, MSF carried out a mass vaccination campaign against measles, vaccinating 1,638 children in the camp.