MSF Suspends Medical Activities in Pinga, DRC, Following Threats

DRC 2013 © MSF

A sign at the entrance to an MSF health center in Pinga, where the organization has been forced to suspend medical activities.

GOMA,DRC/NEW YORK, AUGUST 9, 2013—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to suspend medical activities in and around the town of Pinga, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), following a threat targeting its humanitarian staff.

The suspension will worsen an already dire health and humanitarian situation in the Pinga area. Ethnic tension and active fighting between armed militias in the area has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people into surrounding forests, where no medical care is available. Deaths go unreported.

“We strongly condemn the intimidation of humanitarian workers and cannot accept threats directed at our staff,” said Colette Gadenne, MSF head of mission in Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province.

In Pinga, MSF has been providing medical care to people affected by conflict since before 2010. Control of the town has frequently changed between different armed groups. MSF has negotiated access with all belligerents in order to reach vulnerable and displaced people from all communities. In 2012 and during the first half of 2013, MSF medical staff assisted with 1,790 deliveries, treated 1,290 children for malnutrition, and provided more than 100,000 outpatient consultations. Activities continued despite the precarious security situation in the area, including in Pinga town and also in some villages across the front line, such as Malemo.

Despite MSF’s best efforts, there are limits to the humanitarian assistance the organization is able to provide. Violence and insecurity have at times prevented MSF from accessing all communities equally.

“Civilians from all communities are exposed to shocking levels of violence and ongoing displacement, with many cut off from medical assistance, food, water, and shelter,” said Gadenne. “We know that for every child we have been able to treat for severe malaria, every woman with a complicated delivery, every person we treat for trauma wounds, there are many more suffering just out of reach.”

In the meantime, MSF continues its medical activities elsewhere in North Kivu Province and the rest of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

MSF is a neutral, independent, and impartial organization firmly guided by medical ethics. Since 1981, the organization has provided free, quality medical care to all communities throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo without prejudice or distinction regarding race, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation. Last year, MSF carried out more than 1.6 million outpatient consultations in DRC, more than in any other country where MSF was working.