03 Apr 18 27 Apr 18

MSF PULSE: Crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo

Over 100,000 people are currently displaced from their homes in Ituri province, Demoratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a result of violence that erupted in the area of Djugu. The current violence started in December 2017, and after a lull in January, flared up again in February of this year. The resumed intensity of violence has left houses burnt, people killed and has caused thousands to flee in search of safety. Those affected made their way north towards Mahagi or south towards Bunia, whereas others headed for Lake Albert and the relative safety of Uganda.

Displaced people reaching Uganda have been met with overwhelmed facilities and dire living conditions. On February 23rd, health authorities in Uganda confirmed a cholera outbreak in Hoima district, where new arrivals are hosted, which left at least 36 people dead and nearly 1,800 severe cases hospitalized. MSF has responded to the outbreak and is providing basic health care and vaccinations for refugees. 

MSF PULSE: Crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo

 

 

MSF’s activities in Bunia

In mid-February, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that around 20,000 people were sheltering in Bunia town. Most are living in informal sites, with host families or are sheltering in churches and schools, whilst around 2,000 people are gathered at a temporary site at the regional hospital. Some people have been living in these conditions for over a month now and there is a real risk that their health could soon start to deteriorate. 

MSF teams are working in and around Bunia and Mahagi, supporting healthcare, undertaking water and sanitation work and distributing items of basic necessity. Teams have distributed 1,200 kits of non-food items such as blankets and soap, and continue to support the distribution of food such as flour, salt and rice to the displaced. 

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Since MSF’s arrival in February, teams have seen 2,117 outpatients, 783 if which were children under the age of five and 349 of which were pregnant women. The main illnesses people are presenting with are malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhea. Teams are also offering mental health consultations, as those arriving in Bunia are traumatized by the violence they have witnessed or been victims of. 

Stories of flight: 'People are being hunted down and killed' 

MSF teams in Uganda have been hearing horrifying testimonies from those displaced. Many speak about houses being systemically torched and people being hunted down in the forest and murdered.  

“This is the first time I’ve fled DRC,” says Imani, a 53 year-old woman who lived through the Ituri war in the 2000s. “It’s different this time. In the 2000s our homes were torched too, but we were able to go back to our villages. Now people are being hunted down and killed. The attackers chase us with dogs into the forest.”

Baraka, a 20 year-old fisherman from Kafé witnessed violence while on his boat. “On March 8th, at about five in the morning, villages on the banks of the lake were on fire,” he recalls. “My nets were in the water and I pulled them in quickly to get the fish. When I got closer to Kafé, I saw a woman running towards the lake. A man armed with a machete caught up with her and killed her.” Baraka went to the market town, Chomia, to get a boat to travel to Uganda and meet his wife and two children who had already crossed over.

While a system has been set up in Uganda to provide protection and assistance to refugees, facilities in Hoima district are overwhelmed and unable to provide adequate humanitarian aid for the number of people that are continuing to arrive.

Emmanuel, a father of eight children, had decided to return to Ituri, less than 20 kilometres from Chomia, to check on his fields and bring back food for his family. “I went to the field very early in the morning to get some manioc. I saw flames in the villages near the lake,” says Emmanuel.  “I didn’t know what was on fire. As everything had seemed calm in the previous few days, people in my village who’d been sleeping in the forest because they were scared of the attacks had returned home. The attackers came back at dawn. They attacked people with machetes, killing as many as they could. The only way for me to survive was to flee again. I brought nothing back with me.”

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