Due to the violence in Rutshuru, tens of thousands of people fled to neighboring Nyiragongo territory last year, near Goma, where they gathered in informal settlements lacking basic services such as shelter, health care, food, and water. MSF was one of the first organizations to launch an emergency intervention in the settlements in Munigi and Kanyaruchinya. Our teams offered general health care, treatment for victims of sexual violence, referrals to Goma hospitals, and safe drinking water, while repeatedly calling on the humanitarian community to support the response.
When the first suspected cases of cholera were reported in these settlements in August 2022, we organized an oral vaccination campaign. However, as fighting intensified in Rutshuru territory, there was a huge influx of new arrivals in October and a cholera outbreak could not be prevented. For many weeks, our teams were the only health care providers responding to this emergency, setting up dedicated treatment centers.
The violence was by no means limited to areas directly affected by the resurgence of M23. Conflict broke out in other parts of North Kivu, such as Masisi, and deliberate attacks against civilians continued unabated in Ituri province. Although the lack of security guarantees for our teams forced us to close our projects in Nizi and Bambu, in Djugu territory, we maintained our activities in and around Drodro, treating victims of violence and providing access to basic health care, as well as water and sanitation activities for displaced and host communities.
Elsewhere in DRC, our teams supported people affected by outbreaks of violence in Tshikula territory (Kasaï Central), and in Mai-Ndombe and Kwilu provinces, where an intercommunity dispute over land quickly spiraled out of control. There, our teams organized hundreds of medical consultations and referred the seriously injured to the capital, Kinshasa.
Outbreaks of infectious diseases
While the resurgence of M23 was a main focus of public attention towards DRC, another underreported health crisis once again became a major cause for MSF emergency interventions: a new, country-wide flare-up in measles cases. Measles reached epidemic levels in nearly half of DRC’s health zones, with close to 150,000 cases and 1,800 deaths officially reported.
Our teams carried out 45 specific measles responses in the country, while also continuing to run our usual immunization and care activities in our regular projects. We vaccinated over two million children against measles in 2022.
We responded to other disease outbreaks during the year. In North Kivu, South Kivu, and Kasaï Oriental provinces, we treated patients for cholera and protected tens of thousands with oral cholera vaccinations. We also assisted the Ministry of Health’s response to a meningitis outbreak in Haut-Uélé, and to two Ebola outbreaks in Equateur and North Kivu provinces.
Our regular general and specialist health care activities
In addition to our emergency responses, we maintained our regular general and specialist medical activities across the country, including HIV and tuberculosis treatment, sexual and reproductive health care, safe abortion care, mental health services, and support to marginalized people, such as children living on the streets, incarcerated people, and sex workers. We also supported the rehabilitation and construction of several health facilities.
Malnutrition continued to be a key medical issue in several provinces, leading us to launch dedicated interventions in Tshopo, South Kivu and Haut-Uélé. Malaria also remained one of the main diseases treated by our teams in the country. In 2022, we launched specific prevention and treatment activities in South Kivu during the peak season to support health authorities. We also conducted major indoor household spraying campaigns and mass drug administration activities, the latter consisting of the distribution of a malaria chemoprophylaxis, in Angumu, Ituri, to reduce the high prevalence of malaria in the area.
Meanwhile, the number of patients admitted for sexual violence remained remarkably high in the five provinces where we have dedicated projects for victims. We offer them a full package of medical and psychological care. As part of an innovative approach to addressing the high level of sexual violence in Salamabila, our teams worked with the community to set up two “husband schools,” spaces where men engage in awareness-raising sessions on sexual violence. The aim is to inform and influence them in a positive way.
The extent of activities carried out in DRC by MSF in 2022 once again reflects the magnitude of the medical humanitarian needs in the country. At the end of the year, over 26 million people were in need of assistance, and more than 5.7 million remained displaced, the largest number on the African continent.