MSF Opens New Emergency Operations in Katanga Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Kinshasa, March 6, 2003 - A serious measles epidemic has reached the region of Kamina Lenge, south of Ankoro, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched a vaccination campaign for close to 50,000 children.

In Mukubu, to the east of Malemba N'Kulu, another MSF team has begun an emergency operation. This zone is just as badly affected by measles and also by malnutrition. Thirty children have already been admitted to the feeding center and 30 others have been hospitalized. Mobile clinics and the health centers at Kyolo and Kibindi are treating those who have fallen ill and referring serious cases to Mukubu. As this region is close to the frontlines of ongoing violence in the region, civilians in the area are regularly victims of violence. The most recent battles, between two rival Mai-Mai groups, took place in January. The population has received no aid at all for at least three years.

The people of Ankoro, who had fled violence and looting last November, are progressively returning to town though uncertainties regarding their security remain. After two and a half months of operations in Ankoro, MSF is closing its project there in order to focus its response to the new emergencies in Kamina Lenge and Mukubu.

On November 21, 2002, when the first MSF team arrived in Ankoro, about 1500 houses were burned to the ground. Most of the population had fled to the bush to escape the violence and pillaging of the Congolese Armed Forces. Several civilians were killed and many others were wounded. The hospital and its pharmacy were looted. Calm has now been restored and people are coming back to Ankoro, but the population remains worried because these acts of violence were not the first and the troops who committed them are yet to be replaced.

In Ankoro, an MSF physician and nurse worked with local staff caring for the sick and wounded in the main hospital, while mobile teams were taking care of the population who had sought refuge in surrounding villages. Since December, several cases of measles were detected among the displaced. From December 17 to January 18, MSF and the health authorities in Ankoro inoculated a total of 22,100 children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years against measles and provided each with a dose of vitamin A. The routine vaccination continues to be offered at the main hospital.

MSF also built fifty communal shelters to house families whose homes were destroyed and who would not have been able to rebuild them before the end of the wet season.