Doctors Without Borders Treating War Wounded in Bunia

Group demands access to vulnerable populations

Geneva/Bunia, May 21, 2003 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) resumed work in the town of Bunia, in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). MSF set up a clinic with surgical facilities to treat patients with war injuries. Before clashes erupted in early May, MSF supported the surgical team in the local hospital, but had to evacuate Bunia because of deteriorating security. MSF urges the warring parties to allow access to the vulnerable population in and around Bunia who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

MSF returned to Bunia on May 16, 2003, with a surgical team consisting of a surgeon, anaesthetist, medical doctor, nurse, head of mission and a logistician. The situation in Bunia remains fragile, with access to civilians limited to very restricted, secured areas.

For the time being, work at Bunia's hospital remains difficult, because the safety of the patients, and international and national staff cannot be guaranteed. MSF visited the hospital and referred five patients to a health structure in the center of Bunia. They suffered machete and gunshot wounds and required immediate surgical intervention. MSF is supporting the health structure in town and has been treating patients with war injuries.

In order to treat more patients and extend surgical activities, MSF has opened an additional clinic in a former supermarket. MSF also provides water and sanitation facilities to two camps in Bunia housing nearly 10,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

More than 10,000 people have arrived in N'dalia, 120 kilometers to the south, after fleeing the intense fighting in Bunia. They walked in the rain for four to five days, and all they brought with them were the clothes they were wearing. MSF has been working in the area since December 2002 and has been providing medical assistance, as well as setting up emergency facilities such as latrines and shelter. MSF is also bringing medical assistance to several thousand Congolese who have sought refuge in the Ntoroko area in Uganda.

MSF has been present in DRC since 1981, and has been providing help in emergency interventions, vaccination campaigns, AIDS-programs and basic healthcare. Today, nearly 100 international volunteers are working in 8 provinces.