- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
Democratic Republic of Congo
MSF in Democratic Republic of Congo , 2009
Field Staff: 2832
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Democratic Republic of Congo »
In 2009 the people in eastern Congo suffered continuous violence from different armed groups. Hundreds were killed, thousands raped and hundreds of thousands fled their homes. MSF provided medical assistance by running hospitals, mobile clinics, vaccination campaigns and cholera programs and treating victims of sexual violence.
In January 2009, Congolese and Rwandan armies launched military operations against the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels. This offensive led to a mass displacement of people and many villages were attacked, looted and burned. Throughout February and March some 100,000 displaced people arrived in the Kayna area and Lubero town. In response, MSF extended its existing programs to the Lubero district.
In North Kivu, MSF provided emergency care and healthcare in the places most affected by armed conflict, and continued to work in the hospitals of Nyanzale, Masisi, Mweso, Kitchanga and Kirotshe. MSF also supported health centers and ran mobile clinics and nutrition programs in the surrounding areas, as well as offering medical and psychosocial care for victims of sexual violence. Overall MSF carried out more than 177,000 consultations in these areas.
MSF also extended its activities by opening units to treat burns victims, and neonatal care in Rutshuru hospital, north of Goma.
In the southern district of Kalonge, where 42,000 people were forced to flee their villages, teams provided free access to healthcare through the Chifunzi hospital and five rural health centers. MSF also worked in a hospital and cholera treatment center in Baraka and provided medical and psychosocial care for 5,600 rape victims throughout North and South Kivu.
MSF worked in a 148-bed hospital and a 100-bed cholera treatment center in Baraka in South Kivu. The hospital targeted diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition, with emphasis on reproductive healthcare. In 2009, more than 24,000 consultations were carried out.
Mobile surgical teams went to Bunyakiri, Kayna and Nyamilima, three sites affected by violence whose people, until then, had had no access to surgical care. Teams performed nearly 300 surgeries. More than 30 per cent of the injuries were caused by violence.
Epidemics, emergencies and challenges
MSF responded to recurring epidemics such as measles and cholera by treating people with cholera in special units in Rutshuru and Goma, and vaccinating children under five years old against measles.
In response to the violence in Shabunda Territory, MSF started an emergency four month program in Lulingu in South Kivu, providing internally displaced people as well as the local communities with healthcare and nutrition. MSF treated more than 15,700 people during this period.
Insecurity continued to undermine MSF’s attempts to support the weak and overstretched national healthcare system. In October, seven MSF vaccination sites came under fire during attacks by the Congolese army against the FDLR in the Masisi district, despite an assurance of safety from the government. MSF denounced this as an unacceptable attack on civilians.
Haut-Uélé, Bas-Uélé and Ituri
In Haut- and Bas-Uélé districts in Province Orientale, MSF continued to work in Dungu hospital and began to support hospitals and health centers in Faradje, Niangara, and Dingila. MSF also resumed its activities in Doruma after a suspension due to insecurity. In all its project locations, MSF offered psychosocial support, vaccination against measles, and distributed relief items to thousands of displaced people.
In the course of 2009, violence and armed confrontations have gradually escalated. They now stretch from Haut-Uélé into Bas-Uélé in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and to the neighboring regions of southern Sudan and eastern Central African Republic. In the Faradje area, the situation improved so MSF decided to hand over its medical and psychosocial activities. But further west in Bas-Uélé new attacks displaced thousands of civilians. In response, MSF supported Ango Hospital giving free medical care to the displaced and local residents. During the first part of the year, teams assisted people who had fled to the Ariwara area Ituri on the border of Uganda.
Following previous attacks, MSF had to suspend its activities in treatment centers for sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) in Bili and Banda, where MSF had treated 228 people in the first three months of the year.
In Bunia, Ituri district, 700 children under five years old were hospitalized and a further 2,000 received care through consultations every month. More than 1,000 women received medical and psychological care, mostly for rape.
More than 8,000 people who fled violence in the Similiki area sought refuge in the town of Gety. MSF provided healthcare to 18,000 patients and, when security allowed, brought medical care to neighboring Tchekele, Aveba and Songolo. Teams also vaccinated 15,000 children against measles in these areas.
In more stable areas of the DRC, health needs persist. Emergency teams based in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Kisangani responded to 12 emergencies including a cholera epidemic in Katanga and an outbreak of Ebola fever in West Kasai. MSF carried out vaccination campaigns against measles, inoculating more than 400,000 children mainly in the provinces of Orientale, Maniema, and North Kivu.
MSF continued to provide treatment to 2,000 patients with HIV/AIDS in the capital Kinshasa, but closed its two clinics offering treatment for sexually transmitted infections in the northern city of Kisangani as another organization took over, ensuring continuity of treatment.
In Katanga, MSF ran two hospitals in Shamwana and Dubie, and offered basic and maternal healthcare in 12 health centers. For the third year running, MSF organized a camp providing specialized surgery for women suffering from obstetric fistulas, a debilitating condition often the result of complications in childbirth.
Refugees flee to Congo Brazzaville
Between October and December in Equateur province, western DRC, fighting started between different communities reportedly over farming and fishing rights. More than 100,000 people fled violence to the other side of the border in the Republic of Congo Brazzaville and more than 30,000 were displaced inside DRC.
According to a survey conducted in December among refugees in the neighboring Republic of Congo Brazzaville by MSF's epidemiological center "Epicentre", approximately 1,700 persons out of a population of 40,500 died from violence over a 50-day period.
In November, MSF started to assist Congolese refugees in the Republic of Congo Brazzaville. At the same time, another MSF team carried out an assessment in areas of DRC that had been hit by the violence but it was only at the beginning of January 2010 that security allowed MSF to start medical activities there.
Patient story (13 years old)
Michel was sleeping soundly at home one night when four armed men came, dressed as civilians. They tied Michel’s hands together and took him into the bush. ‘I found myself with about 20 other children,’ Michel tells us. ‘These men whipped us and forced us to work. We were always tied up at night.’
One day Michel managed to escape, taking advantage of a skirmish between his kidnappers and the army. ‘When I came out of the bush, people were scared of me. I told them not to be afraid and finally they took me in.’
Michel found his family again. His parents decided to leave him at MSF’s center for child survivors for a while. He receives psychological support and spends his days with other children who were once kidnapped. He needs time to readjust to living back in the community.
MSF has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1987.