MSF Treats Those Wounded in Western DRC Violence

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Many seriously injured in Bas-Congo are out of reach of medical care

At the general hospital in Matadi, the main town of Bas-Congo province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a medical team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided care for 29 people wounded in the clashes between the police and members of Bundu Dia Kongo, a political-religious group contesting the state's authority.

Since February 28, when the Congolese police began its repression of the members of Budnu Dia Kongo, the west of the DRC has become a theatre of violent clashes. “This is an emergency situation,” says Philippe Havet, MSF coordinator in Bas-Congo. “There are wounded—by bullet or bladed weapons—requiring emergency medical treatment. For MSF, all wounded should be treated, whatever their political or religious affiliations.”

The inhabitants have been forced to flee or find themselves trapped in the fighting and shooting. “During the clashes in a district of Matadi, on March 8, two children—two and four years old—were hit by stray bullets," says Bertrand Perrochet, coordinator of MSF’s DRC-based emergency team. “They were referred to the hospital in Matadi. We managed to care for one of them, but the youngest died during the transfer.”

Some people were hit by stray bullets while fleeing the violence, like one 14-year-old boy with a serious bullet wound, who was admitted to the hospital in Matadi on March 20, having spent two weeks hidden in the bush.

In order to reach as many wounded as possible with complete independence of action, MSF has organized two mobile medical teams in the regions of Kibunzi and Tshela, to the north of Matadi, where the majority of Bundu Dia Kongo members have taken up positions. During the last two days, the mobile teams have counted 30 wounded in the 15 health facilities visited. They have distributed medical material and dressings so medical personnel can treat the wounded. Three patients requiring amputation will be referred to the hospital in Matadi.

MSF's mobile teams have seen villages, emptied of a good number of their inhabitants, where many houses have been burnt to the ground. “It’s difficult to give an overall figure for the number of victims because a lot of them are still out of reach,” says Philippe Havet. “Most of the wounded are members of the Bundu Dia Kongo group, who don’t go to health facilities due to fear of being found by law enforcement; others have nothing to do with the clashes and have fled the violence to hide in the bush. Yet some of them are seriously wounded and their health must be in really poor shape. They need urgent treatment.”