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DRC: Heavy Fighting Breaks out in North Kivu
Civilians flee; MSF teams are evacuated and redeployed
September 11, 2008
DRC 2008 © Coralie Lechelle / MSF
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to evacuate teams from some areas and redeploy to other areas in North Kivu province as a result of heavy fighting that began on August 28. The people of North Kivu, already suffering from nearly constant violence, find themselves once again on the battlefield.
MSF is witnessing a serious increase in hostilities—no longer minor skirmishes, but sustained fighting with heavy weapons. Although the UN has deployed a peacekeeping force to North Kivu, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), with its 14,000 blue helmets, has been unable to maintain peace.
Due to the fighting, MSF has completely withdrawn its teams from Nyanzale and Kabizo, and has partially evacuated teams from Rutshuru hospital, leaving medical and surgical teams to treat the wounded and emergency cases. In Mweso, the proximity to the frontline has made it impossible for MSF teams to maintain a full-time presence, and 55 patients requiring 24-hour care were transferred to the hospital in Kitchanga. MSF continues to provide assistance in Kitchanga, Mweso, Masisi, and Rutshuru.
The humanitarian situation in North Kivu is extremely worrying. The fighting has caused massive movements of the population. In the space of three days, an estimated 250,000 people living in camps on the Katsiro-Butare axis fled, along with residents of the villages in this area. Thousands of people have fled north (to Kayna, Kanyabayonga, and further), and MSF has redeployed some of its teams to assess the situation in this area. Thousands have also fled Kachuga and Mweso areas. Where possible, MSF is providing increased medical care and other assistance to prevent outbreaks of diseases, such as cholera, but there is serious concern for people who have fled into areas cut off by the fighting.