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 displacement, 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.