Situation update: MSF responding to health needs following violence in Ituri Province, DRC

Thursday, March 29, 2018 — Recent violence in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has displaced over 300,000 people from their homes and has echoes of the conflict that affected the region in the early 2000s. Houses have been burned, around 200 people have been killed and many more have been wounded.

Some people in Ituri have been displaced for over a month, living in informal sites with host families or sheltering in churches and schools, many without access to clean water. Due to this displacment, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is concerned that people's health could start to deteriorate leading to cases of severe malnutrition, and potential measles or cholera epidemics. 

In Uganda, reception facilities are overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals - over 50,000 people have fled by boat across Lake Albert to Uganda since mid-December. Rand health authorities recently confirmed a cholera outbreak in the region, which left at least 36 people dead and resulted in nearly 1,800 severe cases. MSF has responded to the outbreak, and is also providing basic healthcare and vaccinations to refugees. However, with inadequate access to food and shelter, the conditions remain dire.

MSF response in DRC

MSF teams are working in and around Bunia and around Mahagi. In Bunia, in the two camps housing approximately 1,700 internally displaced families, MSF teams have built toilets and showers, and are also helping to ensure the camps have a safe water supply. Conditions inside the camps remain worrying; people are living tightly packed together with little space for new arrivals.  

MSF is also supporting three health centres in Bunia – Bigo, Lembabo and Kindia – with personnel, including nurses, midwives and psychologists. Many people have been traumatised by the violence they have witnessed or been victim of. There are children who have lost their whole families in the chaos. Since MSF arrived in February, teams have undertaken over 5,000 outpatient consultations and helped treat 77 people wounded as a result of violence.

  • More than 30 percent of the patients MSF sees are suffering from malaria, while others have respiratory infections and diarrhoea.
  • Around 600 women have benefited from prenatal care and 84 women have given birth in MSF-supported health centres.

As many people left their homes with nothing, or have been living with host families for weeks now, MSF has been distributing family kits, containing basic necessities such as blankets, soap and mosquito nets, in and around the areas where teams are working. Recently, 1,350 family kits were distributed to people living in an informal settlement in Kasenyi, on the lakeside, and over 700 kits to people living in school buildings in the village of Lopa. 

Around the areas of Tchomia, Kasenyi, Angumu and Mahagi Port in DRC, MSF is focussing its efforts on providing cholera prevention and treatment for displaced and local communities. Teams are ensuring access to clean water and are preparing in case of an outbreak.

Internally Displaced Congolese building houses inside a Internally Displaced Persons(IDP) Camp on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. ©John Wessels/MSF
Internally displaced Congolese rest in the afternoon sun in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. ©John Wessels/MSF
Denise Borive (31) (R), speaks with her mother as she recovers from an emergency caesarian in a hospital room on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. After hearing about a pending attack on her village she fled on foot with her mother and children at nine months pregnant to seek safety. ©John Wessels/MSF
Alphonsime Mojetha (54) recovers in a hospital room on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. After an attack on her village she lost her two children and suffered severe machete wounds to the back of her head, her arms and her hands. She hid in the bush for two nights before making her way to Bunia to find help. ©John Wessels/MSF
Mace-Grace (11) recovers in a hospital room on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. She lost her mother, three siblings and her left hand after an attack on her village. ©John Wessels/MSF
Bawma Yoame (56), recovers in a hospital room on 2 March 2018 in Bunia, after an attack on his village left him severely wounded with multiple lacerations to the head. ©John Wessels/MSF
Myime Richards (32), recovers in a hospital room on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. He lost his wife, three of his four children and suffered servere lacerations to his head and neck after an attack on his village. ©John Wessels/MSF
Paulette Buye (12), recovers in a hospital room on 2 March 2018 in Bunia. An attack on her village led to her being struck in the back of the neck with a machete, and she, her mother and her brother, who suffered a machete wound to the leg, hide in the bush for three nights before making the trip to Bunia to find help. ©John Wessels/MSF
A Internally displaced Congolese woman carries a sack full of non-food items (NFIs) after a distribution on 2 March 2018 in Telega. ©John Wessels/MSF
Internally displaced Congolese sit inside a church which is used as a shelter in Telega. ©John Wessels/MSF
Internally Displaced Congolese women and children wait outside a makeshift MSF health clinic on 2 March 2018 in Telega. ©John Wessels/MSF
Internally displaced Congolese are seen inside a church, which is used as a shelter in Telega. ©John Wessels/MSF