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MSF Continues to Provide Care in Violent Areas of Northern DRC and Southern Sudan
August 3, 2009
Sudan 2009 © Brendan Bannon
Over the past weeks, civilians have continued to suffer from violent attacks in several areas of northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Southern Sudan. Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been perpetrating acts of extreme violence on the populations in both countries. This violence was further exacerbated by the operations conducted against the LRA by national armies in the region. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have been providing assistance to the displaced and resident populations by offering free health care and psychosocial support, and by improving living conditions.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
According to official estimates, around 250,000 people have been displaced by violence in northern DRC. The situation is slowly deteriorating and humanitarian assistance is not sufficient to respond to the needs of the people. The lack of security in the region, especially outside the main towns, limits the level of assistance that MSF and other relief agencies can provide. It is also extremely difficult for the population to access health facilities.
In Dungu, a town in the northeastern Haut-Uélé district of DRC, an MSF medical team is carrying out an average of 300 consultations per week in two health centers which are being rehabilitated. In Dungu hospital itself, the surgical team is operating on about 20 patients per week. MSF is also providing psychological support to people who are suffering from stress due to the violence.
In Doruma, an isolated and insecure town on the Sudanese border, MSF is planning to distribute cooking utensils and basic items to about 4,000 people. The medical team is also currently setting up a project here. The team will increase the health services available to the population, offering psychological care to traumatized people, medical care to survivors of sexual violence, and treatment to people with sleeping sickness.
MSF is supporting the Niangara reference hospital as well as the health center in Wawé, some two miles from the town. On average, MSF medical teams carry out 800 consultations and hospitalize about 30 patients each week. In Faradje, where MSF is also supporting a hospital, more than 400 patients come for consultation each week and 30 patients are hospitalized. The main diseases treated in these areas are malaria, acute respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections, and stress-related diseases.
MSF teams have set up a significant psychosocial program to help the local people cope with stress and traumatic experiences. Recently, 73 children who had been abducted by armed men began receiving psychological and medical support in Faradje. Over the last six weeks, MSF has also helped 35 victims of sexual violence in Niangara.
MSF has handed over its activities in the Ariwara and Imboko areas in DRC's northeastern Ituri district to local health authorities. More than 20,000 people displaced by violence in Faradje and Aba had fled to these areas. MSF will continue to closely monitor the area’s humanitarian needs.
Further west near Dingila village in Bas-Uélé district, MSF teams have distributed plastic sheeting, blankets, mosquito nets, and jerry cans to approximately 10,000 displaced people. The population in this area has very limited access to health care and clean water. An MSF team of eight remains ready to respond to any emergency situation in the area.
Approximately 130 national and 21 international staff are currently working in MSF projects in Haut and Bas Uélé districts of DRC.
Tens of thousands of Congolese have sought refuge across the border in Southern Sudan. Ugandan rebels have also carried out attacks on a number of villages there, forcing thousands of Sudanese people to also flee their homes for safety.
In Western Equatoria State, located across the border from DRC, MSF teams are offering assistance to Congolese refugees and Sudanese people displaced by rebel violence. Based in Yambio town, the MSF team has provided primary health care and psychological support to the people in Yambio, Makpandu, Naandi, and Ezo.
Since February, MSF medical teams have carried out 2,600 consultations and provided psychological support to more than 300 people in Western Equitoria. However in the last month, it has been impossible to access the town of Ezo due to continuous LRA attacks.
In neighboring Central Equatoria State, MSF teams have been assisting more than 7,000 Congolese refugees in Libogo and Nyori. Many of these refugees had fled DRC pre-emptively, fearing attacks by the LRA. They either integrated themselves within the resident Sudanese community, constructing local shelters, or sought refuge in the open air, underneath trees, or in school buildings.
In March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established a refugee camp near Nyori to house the Congolese refugees seeking shelter in one place. MSF built a primary health care clinic in the camp, where each week the doctors and nurses carried out an average of 500 consultations, primarily for maternal health care, and treated people for conditions including malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory tract infections. MSF also vaccinated children against measles and improved the water and sanitation conditions.
After meeting the most urgent needs of the refugees, and fully establishing the medical clinic in the refugee camp, MSF teams, in June, handed over the project in Central Equatoria to an organisation called Across. MSF teams regularly visit Nyori and remain ready to respond if there is another large influx of refugees or displaced people.
About 28 national and four international staff are currently running the MSF project in Western Equatoria State in Southern Sudan.