DRC: MSF suspends activities in Bambu, Ituri following attack on one of its vehicles

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Democratic Republic of Congo 2021 © Moses Sawasawa/MSF

NEW YORK/GOMA, OCTOBER 30, 2021—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to temporarily suspend activities in the health zone of Bambu in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province after unidentified gunmen fired at an MSF vehicle for an unexplained reason.

The incident, which happened during the afternoon of October 28 as a team of five people were traveling back from Bambu after assisting isolated communities, injured two members of the team. MSF’s two injured staff—one of whom sustained a bullet wound in the right armpit and another in the pelvis—have since received health care and are in stable condition. The entire MSF team in Bambu was later evacuated to the town of Bunia.

"This is unacceptable—we condemn all forms of violence against the medical mission, our patients, and staff," said Frédéric Lai Manantsoa, MSF head of mission in Ituri. "We are shocked by this news and alarmed at the violence that is raging in Ituri province. This is the second serious incident that has occurred in the past few months—this time involving a vehicle clearly identified as medical and humanitarian."

The convoy came under fire even though it was clearly showing the MSF name and emblem. MSF teams work according to the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence.

Last June, MSF expressed its outrage at the destruction and looting of the General Referral Hospital of Boga, which was the last remaining health facility in the district. MSF had coordinated its rehabilitation, with many years of effort going up in smoke in a matter of minutes.

"Violence against civilians is a constant fact of life in this area and insecurity is growing, but still we need to try to reach people who need medical care," Manantsoa said.

The suspension of activities further reduces the limited health care options for people in Bambu.

In Ituri, MSF supports three general hospitals, 12 health centers, and four health posts, as well as 32 community health posts in the Drodro, Nizi, and Angumu health districts. Teams provide pediatric care and mental health services, treat malnutrition and malaria, and assist survivors of sexual violence.