DR Congo

Medair resumes emergency health care in conflict-embattled eastern DR Congo

News and Press Release
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D.R. Congo - Less than a week after being forced to swiftly evacuate from Dungu town, Medair staff have returned with essential medicines to provide emergency relief for thousands of Congolese in Dungu town and the surrounding region.

Medair staff were forced by attacks of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to evacuate from Dungu town to Isiro on 1 November. With thousands of Congolese displaced to the south because of conflicts, Medair made the decision to return to Dungu, and two Medair medical supervisors left by motorbike on 7 November to resume the provision of emergency relief.

A Medair truck loaded with four large medicine "kits" departed for Dungu town on 10 November. Transporting the medicines proved to be extremely challenging. "Dungu is a very remote and inaccessible place," said Hermann Chelo, Base Manager of Medair Isiro. "The heavy rains of the last weeks made it almost impossible to reach this region by vehicle."

Medair staff spent four days of arduous travel through the mud to finally bring the vital health supplies to Dungu, where they were immediately distributed to health centres in the south. In total, Medair has distributed 14 medicine kits to 10 health structures since the crisis began, providing essential medicines to approximately 3,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dungu territory. Another two medicine kits were used to treat 762 IDPs in Bangadi, a village that was heavily attacked multiple times.

"We appreciated very much that Medair returned so quickly to Dungu," said Mr. Felicien Balani, President of the Civil Society in Dungu. "Medair has a very practical concept to help us, and the medicines they brought ... have already helped many displaced people."

In addition to distributing medicines, Medair's health supervisors are providing front-line health care and support for those affected by the conflict. "Many nurses from our health centres had to flee out of Dungu themselves, and we lack competent staff at the moment," said Mr. Balani. "Therefore, it is a big support that Medair is present with two medical supervisors. Medair has proven once again that they stay with us, the population, even in difficult situations."

Although the team has successfully returned to Dungu, the threat of future attacks has them prepared to leave on a moment's notice.

"At the moment, we have urged our team in Dungu to be extremely careful, especially as there is a rumour spreading that the LRA might attack the town of Dungu a second time," said Mr. Chelo. "We are in constant contact with our staff on-site and they have their motorbikes and little luggage ready in case another evacuation will be necessary. However, we are committed to being present in Dungu as long as possible to assist the population with medical care."

After the town of Dungu was attacked by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on 1 November, heavy fighting ensued between the LRA and the Congolese army (FARDC). Thousands of civilians fled south, many of whom had already been seeking shelter in Dungu because their own villages were threatened or attacked.

Dungu is located in northeastern Congo near the border with southern Sudan, and about 600 kilometres north of Goma. The LRA actions are not connected with the recent fighting in Goma, but are part of an escalating instability within northeastern Congo that threatens the lives of thousands of people.

"This region has welcomed thousands of IDPs over the last weeks and there is a big need for medical care," said Crispin Liesse, one of Medair's Medical Supervisors now in Dungu. "The fact that Medair has worked in the region for such a long time has helped us to identify secure health structures for distribution, and to estimate risks in an unstable situation."

Since 1998, the International Rescue Committee estimates that an astonishing 5.4 million people have died in DRC from war-related causes, particularly from hunger and disease. For 11 years, Medair has provided emergency relief and rehabilitation in the country for millions of suffering people, and has been called, "the most respected organisation in the entire region." Now, with violent conflict tragically escalating once again, Medair applies its expertise from over a decade of experience to bring urgent life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable of DRC.

Medair brings life-saving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, conflict areas, and other crises by working alongside the most vulnerable. Its internationally recruited staff are motivated by their Christian faith to care for people in need, providing practical and compassionate support, regardless of race, religion, or politics. Founded in 1989, Medair has an unwavering commitment to bring hope to the world's most vulnerable.