KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO/BARCELONA—Teams from the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated 20 injured people, including seven children, after a deadly attack in a village in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Armed militiamen stormed the village of Matopolo on the night of May 20, killing at least 12 people, according to official sources. MSF teams treated survivors at a hospital in Kakenge, about 10 kilometers [six miles] away.
"The attack caused injuries to women, men, and children," said Alessandro Tuzza, MSF field coordinator in Kakenge. "Of the 20 people referred to us, three suffered from bullet wounds and 17 had machete injuries. One was a three-month-old boy with a second-degree burn, and another was a man of about 65 years of age who was suffering from a fracture in the forearm."
The patients are now stable and under medical care. MSF is referring several patients to the city of Kananga for surgery due to the gravity of their fractures and other injuries.
The Greater Kasai region, a territory roughly the size of Italy, has been affected by a humanitarian crisis since 2016 following a wave of violence between the Congolese armed forces and militia groups. While the violence is now sporadic, hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced.
Since April, MSF has been supporting the General Reference Hospital in Kakenge and nearby health centers after several thousand people were displaced due to fresh violence in the area earlier this year. The facility itself had suffered damage in an attack carried out by militiamen in January.
"This recent attack is the biggest incident after months of a relatively calm situation," Tuzza said. "Since early May, following an ease in the tensions, we have seen that hundreds of people have started to come back to the town. There are still people hiding in the bush and we expect they will continue coming."
Over the last six weeks, MSF mobile teams have carried out more than 5,800 medical consultations in the Kakenge area, admitted 160 patients, and treated at least 111 children for malnutrition. MSF is helping the hospital to resume activities.
From June 2017 to April 2018, MSF carried out an intervention in Tshikapa, a city in Kasai province, and the surrounding rural areas to assist the population affected by the conflict, supporting a hospital and three health centers in Tshikapa and gradually expanding operations on the periphery, where gaps in the provision of humanitarian assistance were very acute and the population was more affected by the violence. MSF also donated medical and logistical supplies and provided training to staff of local health centers.
Many facilities had been looted, burned, or destroyed during the violence. MSF teams treated at least 245 survivors of sexual violence, provided more than 500 mental health consultations, and carried out nearly 450 surgical interventions and more than 9,700 pediatric consultations. MSF also set up 18 nutritional centers and treated 5,755 children under five years old for severe malnutrition.
The arrival of other humanitarian actors allowed MSF to gradually hand over these activities in the first quarter of 2018 while opening the intervention in Kakenge. MSF also runs medical projects in neighboring Central Kasai province.