Violence in North Kivu (DRC): Assistance severely hampered

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Amsterdam/Paris, September 28, 2007 -North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an area of chronic violence, which can rise sharply in intensity. Due to the recent insecurity in North Kivu - fighting as well as looting and attacks on the roads - the assistance provided by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is seriously hampered, if not made impossible.

Amsterdam/Paris, September 28, 2007 - The latest spate of violence, which started at the end of August and continues in September, is resulting in massive displacements of populations and is seriously hampering access to humanitarian assistance.

North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an area of chronic violence, which can rise sharply in intensity. Due to the recent insecurity in North Kivu - fighting as well as looting and attacks on the roads - the assistance provided by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is seriously hampered, if not made impossible.

In two areas — Nyanzale and Mweso — a measles epidemic was identified in July, requiring an emergency intervention. In Nyanzale, MSF teams have treated 411 children infected with measles since early July and 13 deaths were registered. In Mweso, MSF treated 312 children and 5 of them died. Measles is one of the main causes of child mortality in developing countries and it can easily be prevented by vaccination. However, the vaccination campaign MSF planned to carry out for 70,000 children in the Nyanzale area had to be postponed due to insecurity. Similarly, it remains impossible to carry out a vaccination campaign in Mweso.

The latest fighting resulted in massive displacements of populations. In the Mweso area, Masisi territory, MSF has been supporting since February four clinics and offering medical care to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residents. MSF has provided 40,000 consultations (including 17,000 malaria patients and 440 malnourished children) for IDPs and residents in the area. But when fighting broke out at the end of August, most people fled. Today the village of Mweso and the surrounding camps are almost abandoned. MSF is very concerned about the situation of these populations left without assistance.

South of Masisi town, it is estimated that another 30,000 internally displaced people have been living for a few months in a very unsafe area to which MSF has no access. In the hospital of Masisi town where MSF started working on August 30, the medical team treated 51 war wounded during the first few days. Now the 120-bed hospital is running at full capacity.

Finally, sexual assault is another form of violence to which civilians are exposed. MSF treats the victims of sexual violence in Rutshuru, Nyanzale, Kayna and Mweso. Each month, MSF teams treat approximately 250 victims of rape at these four locations. But this number sharply increased during the last peak of the violence. Our teams treated 260 new cases the first two weeks of September.

The situation in the province remains highly volatile and worrying. MSF continues to try to provide assistance to affected populations of North Kivu.