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Democratic Republic Of Congo
MSF in Democratic Republic Of Congo, 2008
Field Staff: 2,465
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For the population living in the east and northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 2008 was a bleak year. In January, a peace agreement signed in Goma between the Congolese army and various armed groups brought a glimmer of hope to the people of North and South Kivu. However, sporadic fighting continued throughout the year until full-scale war resumed at the end of August. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee the violence and most aid organizations had to suspend their activities.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) activities in 2008 gradually increased across the provinces of North and South Kivu. In Rutshuru, a town about 43 miles north of Goma, the MSF team continued working in the hospital during the periods of heaviest fighting. More than 3,700 surgeries were carried out in Rutshuru hospital, 19 percent of which were for gunshot wounds, reflecting the high level of violence.
MSF opened a program in Kabizo to manage a measles epidemic and provide health care to internally displaced people who had recently arrived in the area. The MSF team had to evacuate from Nyanzale several times for security reasons during the last four months of 2008. An MSF team started working in April in a hospital in Mweso. A team was already working in Kitchanga hospital, northwest of Goma. Between them, they conducted more than 550 major surgeries, 120 of which were war-related. In Masisi town, about 50 miles northwest of Goma, MSF admitted more than 500 patients per month to the hospital.
Further south, MSF worked in the hospitals of Kirotshe and Minova in North Kivu, and Kalonge in South Kivu. In Minova, MSF had carried out 34,000 consultations by the time the project closed in December. By the end of the year, MSF had admitted more than 4,000 patients to Kalonge hospital, providing among other things surgery, deliveries, and treatment for malnutrition.
In a highly insecure and rapidly changing situation, running mobile clinics, assessing new areas, and quickly relocating teams are key to providing an effective response. MSF teams ran mobile clinics and supported health centers in villages and camps around Rutshuru, Nyanzale, Kabizo, Kayna, Mweso, Kitchanga, Pinga, Masisi, Kirotshe, Kalonge, and Minova. MSF also provided latrines and access to clean water in various locations such as Kitchanga, where more than 70,000 displaced people had gathered in camps.
In 2008, more than 6,700 victims of sexual violence received specialized medical care and counseling in various MSF programs across North and South Kivu. In Nyanzale alone, more than 3,500 victims were treated, and 1,450 were treated in the areas of Kitchanga and Mweso.
In August, heavy fighting broke out, leading to disruptions in humanitarian aid. Hygiene conditions deteriorated and access to clean water for displaced people was reduced, which resulted in an increase in the number of people contracting cholera. In response, MSF treated more than 2,280 patients in Rutshuru and Buturande.
The weak healthcare system in South Kivu was further stretched by large groups of Congolese refugees returning from camps in Tanzania and Burundi. MSF continued support to the hospital and a cholera treatment center in Baraka, Fizi region. In Minova, MSF responded to a cholera outbreak by treating more than 800 patients.
In North Kivu, MSF teams also treated malnourished children in various supported health structures, and vaccinated more than 215,000 children against measles.
While years of conflict in the district of Ituri, in northeast DRC, had come to an end in 2005, renewed fighting between militias and the Congolese army forced up to 100,000 civilians to flee. MSF teams have worked in Gety hospital and launched mobile clinics in Songolo and Soke to bring health care to about 50,000 displaced people and refer patients to Bunia hospital. In Bunia, 11,500 patients and 26,000 children under five years were admitted to Bon Marché hospital.