Northwestern DRC: MSF Brings Medical Help to Those Hit By Severe Violence

Hundreds have fled to Sudan and Uganda, where MSF also provides assistance

Violent attacks in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have become increasingly frequent since late September 2008. Thought to have been carried out by Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army, the assaults have killed hundreds of people and left thousands displaced. Teams from the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are providing assistance in both the DRC and neighboring southern Sudan, and they are ready to respond in Uganda and Central African Republic if necessary.

MSF activities in DRC

According to the UN and human rights organizations, more than 500 people have been killed and more than 400 children abducted during recent attacks in and around the town of Dungu in northeastern DRC. In October 2008, MSF began working in Dungu with a team of five internationals and about 12 Congolese staff.

MSF teams support local health facilities in Limay, Ngilima, Bangadi, Faradje, and Doruma, and run mobile medical clinics by car and motorbike to provide care to displaced people in three locations south of Dungu. MSF supports hospitals in Dungu, Faradje, and Doruma by providing medical supplies and staff incentives. As travel north of Dungu is too dangerous by car, MSF teams travel by plane to provide medical kits, emergency medicine, and support to Congolese health workers. When attacks occur, medical teams fly to the affected areas to transfer any seriously wounded patients in need of hospital care. In recent weeks, teams have visited Bangadi, Doruma, and Faradje. However many of the attacks have been so violent that there have been very few survivors.

Responding to displaced people in southern Sudan

The attacks in DRC have caused hundreds of people to flee across the border into southern Sudan. In September 2008, following attacks on three villages in DRC, approximately 4,000 people sought refuge in the Sudanese towns of Sakure and Gangura. On September 20, Sakure was attacked. Two people were killed, 12 children were kidnapped, food reserves were looted, and several houses and vehicles were burned. An MSF team managed to reach the area rapidly and distributed plastic sheeting for shelter, soap, jerry cans, and supplementary food to the affected people. Medical teams provided support to primary healthcare clinics in Sakure and Gangura and launched mobile clinics along the border with DRC to try to reach more people. These mobile clinics have since stopped, but donations of materials to the primary healthcare clinics are ongoing.

In January 2009, nearly 2,000 refugees arrived in the town of Ezo. An MSF team has done a rapid assessment and provided supplementary food to all children under five who were showing signs of malnutrition. Non-food items like blankets and mosquito nets will be distributed and MSF will continue to monitor the situation and respond if necessary.

MSF teams in Uganda and Central African Republic are also monitoring the situation closely and are ready to respond.