The second-largest country in Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been hobbled by a history of conflict, which continues in several regions. With more than 1.7 million outpatient consultations carried out in 2017—almost one-fifth of all Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) outpatient consultations worldwide—DRC is our largest intervention.
MSF teams support local health care providers, respond to disease outbreaks, and provide access to medical services in places where they are most needed. In 2018, MSF responded to an outbreak of Ebola in Equateur province (declared over in July) and another in North Kivu and Ituri provinces (ongoing). MSF is currently caring for those who are sick, carrying out health promotion activities, conducting infection prevention and control activities, and vaccinating frontline workers against the virus.
Consequently, the average life expectancy in DRC is around 58 years. One in 10 Congolese children dies before the age of five. The continuing conflict in the country’s eastern provinces, where the Congolese army and several armed groups fight for control of resource-rich territory, has also created urgent needs for emergency and routine medical services.
Emergency response is a core activity for MSF in the country. Five teams are dedicated to monitoring health alerts and deploying rapid responses to outbreaks of violence, population displacements, and epidemics across this vast country.
Ebola in North Kivu
Declared in northeastern DRC on August 1, 2018, the current Ebola outbreak in North Kivu is DRC’s largest ever. Efforts to stop the spread of the disease have been complicated by ongoing conflict in the province.
In late February 2019 MSF was forced to suspend its Ebola-related activities in North Kivu’s Katwa and Butembo after its treatment centers were attacked. Our Ebola response continues in the towns of Kayna and Lubéru, at two transit centers in Ituri Province, and in the city of Goma, where MSF is supporting emergency preparedness.
Our mobile clinics in Ituri Province’s Karagba and Ulendere villages provide basic health services to both refugees and the local community. We also care for victims of sexual violence, provide family planning services and mental health consultations, and carry out routine vaccinations.
North and South Kivu
Ravaged by the Congo Wars of the 1990s, North and South Kivu provinces remain unstable, with an estimated 120 active armed groups and 850,000 people living in displacement camps. MSF runs 15 projects in the Kivus addressing a variety of health needs with a focus on conflict medicine and addressing the general lack of access to medical services.
Tanganyika and former Katanga Province
Intercommunal conflict has plagued Tanganyika since 2013. In 2016, a new wave of violence displaced an estimated half a million people in the region. Accessing health care remains a challenge for many in this region, particularly those forced to flee their villages due to violence. One of the four new provincial entities created after the 2014 split of Katanga Province, Tanganyika is also strongly affected by recurrent outbreaks of measles and cholera.
Greater Kasai region
Within less than a year, the central Greater Kasai region was transformed from a peaceful area in a troubled country to one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world today.
In August 2016 the killing of a local chief by Congolese armed forces has led to generalized unrest flaring through an area as large as Italy. The conflict has forced 1.3 million people to flee their homes, 30,000 of whom are now refugees in nearby Angola. MSF teams treated 2,600 victims of sexual violence from May 2017 to September 2018 in Kananga Provincial Reference Hospital in Kasai Central Province. Eighty percent of these patients said that their attackers were armed men.
Three MSF staff members, Philippe, Richard, and Romy, who were abducted in 2013 in Kamango, eastern DRC, remain missing. A fourth staff member, Chantal, escaped in 2014. We remain committed and mobilized to secure their release.