BUKAVU, DRC/AMSTERDAM – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has made the difficult decision to end most of our support to healthcare provision in Kimbi and Baraka in Fizi territory, South Kivu province, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The decision comes after the withdrawal of the majority of MSF staff from Fizi territory in July, following several violent incidents against our teams in 2020.
“It is with great sadness that we have come to the difficult decision to end so much of our support,” said Ellen van der Velden, MSF operational manager. “It is not something we come to lightly. But after several security incidents directed at our staff in Fizi territory, the predictability of further incidents and potential further serious harm to our staff has reached a threshold that we are no longer able to accept.”
The ever-increasing activity from criminal and armed groups across eastern DRC has led to ongoing violence and attacks against civilians on a shocking scale, including targeted killings and horrific acts of violence, including sexual violence. This has had a devastating impact on people and their communities, disrupting livelihoods and displacing millions of people. Additionally, there have been numerous attacks against national and international organisations, including in Fizi territory.
“Despite our best efforts to ensure the safety of our staff and patients, we cannot accept these criminal acts against us,” continued van der Velden. “We have to adapt the medical assistance we are able to provide in this highly violent and insecure context. It is the people of DRC who are most impacted. We call upon all parties to protect civilians and respect humanitarian access.”
In Kimbi, where MSF has been providing support to healthcare services for nine years, we will hand over all activities to the Ministry of Health. In Baraka, where we have been present for 17 years, most activities will be handed over to the Ministry of Health. MSF will keep a small number of services to ensure ongoing treatment for HIV and tuberculosis patients currently under care for the next six months, including support to laboratory services, as well as support to health workers providing care in communities with no access to Ministry of Health clinics.
MSF remains committed to the people of DRC, South Kivu and Fizi territory. In Kimbi and Baraka, we will continue to provide support to Ministry of Health staff and donate medicines into the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, a team of key staff will remain present in Bukavu to explore new models of care to support people in need of medical and humanitarian assistance in South Kivu.
Additionally, MSF will continue our support in other parts of South Kivu, such as our regular project in Kalehe, and monitoring and responding to emergencies.