London/Goma, 1 March 2013 – Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has flown in additional medical staff to the town of Kitchanga in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo after heavy fighting in the last few days between armed groups resulted in deaths and mass casualties.
“Shelling hit one hospital, killing two people and wounding eight others”, said Hugues Robert, MSF’s head of mission for North Kivu province. “We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect the neutrality of health structures.”
Many properties in the town have been destroyed, including the MSF base, and there is widespread panic and fear among the population as tensions between communities in the region escalate. So far, more than 135 people have been wounded and thousands of the town’s inhabitants have fled their homes. There are reports of more than 55 civilian deaths, a number that may increase as many houses were burnt down. Several of MSF’s Congolese staff, in fear for their lives, have fled.
Access to the affected area has been extremely challenging in providing much needed life-saving care. MSF has transferred wounded to Mweso and Goma for further treatment.
Yesterday, a surgeon, anaesthetist, nurse and emergency logistician arrived by helicopter to provide additional support to the current team in Kitchanga. Dressing kits, surgery kits, medicine, plastic sheeting and tents have also been delivered.
“MSF is very concerned about plight of civilians during intense periods of fighting like this – all parties to the conflict should not harm the population” said Robert.