Thousands Flee Renewed Fighting in Democratic Republic of Congo

The humanitarian situation in the Kivu region of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is continuing to deteriorate rapidly. Over the weekend, intense fighting erupted around the town of Rutshuru, some 70 kilometers from the provincial capital, Goma. On Sunday, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams in Rutshuru treated 70 war wounded and have since been working around the clock.

Thousands of people are fleeing the fighting – many have been on the run for weeks. The situation is extremely volatile and is changing from hour to hour. MSF teams continue to provide independent emergency medical aid to people in towns and camps throughout the conflict zone, namely in and around Kitchanga, Masisi, Mweso, Nyanzale and Kayna. In Kitchanga, Masisi, Mweso, and Rutshuru, MSF is the only remaining international organization providing medical and humanitarian assistance.

On Monday, fighting broke out near Kibumba, a village located between Rutshuru and Goma. Thousands of people, from Kimbumba town and nearby camps for the displaced, have fled to Kibati, about 12 km from Goma, where two camps already existed.

“When we heard about the situation near Kibati, we sent our team to evaluate,” says Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue, head of MSF’s emergency desk. “We saw a lot of people staying on the side of the road, coming from the Kibumba area. Most of them have already fled once and were already living in displaced camps.”

“Now they have had to flee again. For them the situation is very difficult as they arrived with only what they could carry. They need shelter, food and clean water soon. We are making a rapid assessment of the situation.”

MSF is currently working in three hospitals in North Kivu and is also supporting several health centers, providing primary, and secondary health care. The organization has also sent mobile clinics to reach people in need of medical care. MSF is sending additional international staff to the region, and is setting up a new base in Bukavu, South Kivu, to support the relief efforts.

“In the Kitchanga and Mweso areas, and also around Masisi and Nyanzale, we have set up mobile clinics to enable us to reach those that cannot reach us,” says Annie Desilets, MSF project coordinator in Kitchanga.

“It’s not always easy to find the displaced people. We go to an area one week where there is a village and we go back the next week and it’s empty. Are they in a center, a village or a camp where we can provide health care? Or are they hiding in the bush where we cannot access them? We don’t know.”