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Beyond Media Spotlight Renewed Fighting in North Kivu Forces Thousands on the Run

Recent fighting in the area of Kanyabayonga has forced hundreds of people to flee and hampered humanitarian efforts. Some of the displaced people who were hiding in the forest have now started to slowly return to town. Today the MSF team is running a mobile clinic in Kanyabayonga to provide them with basic health care. They are also providing medicines to health centers in the area, whose stocks have been run down since fighting started here in September.

Nine wounded have been operated at the hospital in Kayna over the last two days.

In Lunysenghe, a village on the shores of Lake Edward, the population has been swollen by thousands of displaced people. "There is an estimated 5,000 displaced people, sheltering with the local population," says Salha Issoufou, MSF coordinator in Kayna.

Further south in Nyanzale, a three-person MSF team is currently working along with their Congolese colleagues. At the health center, there are 41 children being treated for malnutrition, and 24 inpatients. Yesterday the MSF team went to Birundule where four out of ten children suffering from measles had died.

Teams are continuing to work at the hospital of Rutshuru. An ambulance service is referring patients from health centers in Kiwanja, Kinyandoni, and Kibututu, to Rutshuru hospital. 92 cholera patients were treated last week in the Rutshuru cholera treatment center and 23 in Rubare. Renewed fighting in the region has forced many people to hide in the forest and put their health at risk as they can hardly access medical facilities.

"Despite the perception of a relative calm, violence is continuing in several areas of  North Kivu," says Gilduin Blanchard, MSF head of mission in Goma. "Thousands are currently on the run, forced to flee their homes again. This is happening right now, far from the media spotlight."

One of the main challenges MSF teams are facing is indeed reaching populations caught up in the crossfire. MSF is reinforcing its mobile clinics in various locations north of Mweso, Masisi district. Recent fighting in this area caused new displacements of people. A mobile team is exploring new areas further west, identifying people with unmet health needs following recent fighting and displacement.

Another MSF team was able to go to Kabizo and Bambu, further south, to assess the situation of thousands of displaced people and provide them with urgent medical support. In Kabizo, MSF is running an ambulatory nutritional program and treating victims of sexual violence.

In Mianja, Masisi district, about 4,000 children aged under five years are being vaccinated by MSF following an increase in measles cases. MSF continues to work in the Masisi hospital and is running mobile clinics throughout the region.

The risk of the spreading of diseases such as cholera or measles increases as people are continuously displaced.

In Kibati, a camp just north of Goma with an estimated 40,000 people, the MSF cholera treatment center has admitted 188 patients since the beginning of this month. Hygiene conditions in the camp are still dire and urgently need to be improved in order to prevent more cholera cases.

At Don Bosco orphanage in Goma, about 1,400 displaced people have sought refuge. Another MSF cholera unit has treated 190 patients over the first three weeks of November but there has been a decrease in daily admissions. MSF is continuing to truck clean water to Kibati camp.

At Goma provincial hospital an MSF surgical team has performed 20 operations. West of Goma, MSF is working at the hospital in Kirotshe, and supporting health facilities in three locations beyond the front line, in Mushake, Karuba, and Rubaya. From Monday to Wednesday, MSF mobile clinic teams have performed 438 consultations and they have referred 27 among the most serious patients to Kirotshe hospital. Last week there were 282 outpatient consultations at Kirotshe hospital and 151 patients were admitted. Over the last week MSF performed 15 emergency surgeries, two for people with violent trauma.

In nearby Shasha camp for displaced people, an MSF psychologist has trained a team to help people suffering psychological problems as a result of the conflict. About 500 people are participating in group sessions, and those most affected also receive individual counselling.

In Minova, South Kivu, an MSF team continues to support the local hospital and health centers, and is treating cholera patients.

In the northeastern Orientale Province, other MSF teams are providing health care and basic assistance to people affected by ongoing violence in and around Bunia, Gety, and Dungu.