Beni, DR Congo, January 6, 2003 – Violent fighting continues to ravage the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On December 31, about 35,000 people fled their homes Makeke, on the border between North-Kivu and Ituri, to the town of Beni under heavy artillery fire. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been present in the Beni area since early December and has already seen tens of thousands arriving, seeking refuge from war. In early December, MSF opened dispensaries for displaced people north of the town of Beni in eastern DRC. The dispensaries originally catered to 25,000 people, including war displaced who have had no access to health care in years. Today, the dispensaries cater to 60,000 people who continue to flee extreme levels of violence and fighting in Ituri province. In early December, MSF opened dispensaries for displaced people north of the town of Beni in eastern DRC. The dispensaries originally catered to 25,000 people, including war displaced who have had no access to health care in years. Today, the dispensaries cater to 60,000 people who continue to flee extreme levels of violence and fighting in Ituri province.
Since December, MSF teams have seen over 7,500 patients for medical consultations in 6 villages in the Beni-Mambassa area. The health posts MSF has reopened over this period are now far beyond full capacity, and MSF is setting up additional hospital tents. In less than a month, MSF teams have treated 33 children suffering from acute malnutrition and 13 rape victims. In Mangina, where an outbreak of measles occurred, MSF is vaccinating all patients during consultations.
The ongoing fighting and violence in the region prevents MSF medical teams from accessing a large part of the population. "We see only part of the displaced population," says Philippe Hamel, MSF Head of Mission in the region. "There may be many more. We fear that in total there might be more than 155,000 displaced people in the area between Butembo, Beni, Mambasa and Komanda alone". MSF wants to rapidly expand is emergency relief operations in the area.
Large areas remain inaccessible to humanitarian aid as fighting and violence rage on. Despite the signing of a countrywide peace accord and cease-fire by the government and major rebel movements on December 17, and a special cease-fire agreement for Ituri signed last Sunday, the ongoing war in eastern Congo has cut-off tens of thousands of civilians from all medical and emergency relief.
Fighting in the Uvira area, South Kivu, led more than 1,000 people to flee and seek refuge in Burundi. Fighting in the Baraka area caused two-thirds of the population to flee that town. MSF, which had started to support only hospital services the area, had to temporarily suspend its activities there.