Republic of Congo: MSF Aids Victims of Explosion at Makeshift Sites in Brazzaville

Republic of Congo 2002 © Alain Fredaigue

Makélékélé hospital in Brazzaville, where many victims of the explosion were treated.

Thousands of people who were left homeless by last Sunday’s explosion at a munitions depot in Brazzaville have gathered in makeshift shelters across the city. Teams from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have been evaluating the needs there since Monday. MSF has begun to distribute basic supplies, provide drinking water supplies, manage hygiene, and handle waste disposal at these camps.

Last Sunday's explosions in the munitions depot in the northeast Brazzaville neighborhood of M'Pila killed and wounded many, but also left thousands homeless. The populations affected by the blasts have gathered at seven makeshift sites across the city. MSF's logistics team conducted an initial evaluation at those sites between Monday and Wednesday to draw up a list of critical needs. The findings were uniform: systems for supplying water and removing human waste are minimal at best, hygiene conditions are precarious and shelter is inadequate.

"We estimate that approximately 2,000 people are living at the first three sites we visited on Monday—Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur and the Stade du Marché," explains Juan H., MSF logistics coordinator in Brazzaville. "There are tents, but approximately 50 percent of the people lack shelter. Initially, we distributed basic supplies, such as blankets and mats to protect people from the ground. We must now focus on providing water and on hygiene at these camps, which is a real concern.

MSF has begun work on a drinking water supply system at the Sacré Coeur and Notre Dame camps, which house more than 2,000 people, installing tanks with a volume of several cubic meters. In Notre Dame, MSF has started to build more latrines.

The management of wastewater, human waste, and garbage is critical to prevent epidemics during this rainy, hot weather season. In the coming days MSF teams have to discuss with other partners to define the strategy in terms of water supply, building latrines, and waste management. "We will definitely need to build additional latrines," Juan says. "But our priority was to hire three hygiene workers to provide health education and inform the camps' population about basic rules of hygiene."

An emergency coordination team, made up of a nurse, a logistician, and a doctor has left to provide additional support to the team on site. A health evaluation must be conducted in the camps, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. A psychologist is scheduled to begin holding sessions with disaster victims in the coming days.