Violence Expands in Northern Congo, Population in Urgent Need of Assistance

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Violence Expands in Northern Congo, Population in Urgent Need of Assistance

KINSHASA, DRC - One year after violence erupted in Haut-Uélé district, in northern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), attacks and clashes have now
expanded to new areas, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.
Humanitarian organizations have failed to meet the massive needs that
have resulted and an urgent response with greater presence in the rural
areas of Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé is imperative, said the international
humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF).

Since late 2008, the civilian population of Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé
has been caught in a dramatic cycle of violence linked to attacks
perpetrated by the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA), and the Ugandan and Congolese offensive against the LRA. As the
situation deteriorates, civilians also find themselves facing
increasing banditry.

"The local population is the target of violence: murder, kidnapping
and sexual abuse," said Luis Encinas, coordinator of MSF operations in
Central Africa. "We are talking about tactics of violence aimed at
instilling fear in the people. Our patients have told us the most
brutal stories - about children who are forced to kill their parents
and people burnt alive inside their homes."

The violence and armed confrontations have gradually expanded, now
stretching from Haut-Uélé into Bas-Uélé in northeastern DRC, as well as
in the neighboring regions of southern Sudan and eastern Central
African Republic.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced over the last
year. Ongoing attacks continue to send thousands fleeing to seek
shelter and greater security in towns. The population of Doruma city
has tripled. The towns of Gangala and Banda are each hosting more than
20,000 displaced without assistance. These locations have become
enclaves with outlying fields and villages left deserted.

In several places like Dingila or Niangara, MSF remains the only
humanitarian organization present. "New people are being displaced
every day in the region," said Pierre Kernen, MSF coordinator in
Niangara, a town located in western Haut-Uélé. "They have been forced
to flee one time, two times, three times. They have sought shelter with
local families or in empty buildings but they still don't feel safe
there. MSF is providing medical and psychological care, but we have our
limits. These people also urgently need food, clean water, shelter and
proper living conditions."

Due to insecurity and the absence of roads in these very isolated
areas, MSF has had to use airplanes to bring supplies, drugs and staff
to most of its project locations. "Delivering humanitarian aid to the
people of this region is of course a challenge, but we believe much
more can and must be done to address the consequences of this war on
the population," said Encinas. "Humanitarian organizations should
urgently address people's needs in areas that are most affected by the
fighting and have so far been neglected."

MSF is currently working in Dingila, Doruma, Dungu, Duru,
Faradje, and Niangara, providing over 9,000 medical consultations a
month in hospitals and health centers. MSF has also distributed relief
items to some 16,000 people displaced by violence, as well as
vaccinations and mental health support. Twenty-seven international
staff work alongside 140 Congolese colleagues in MSF projects in
Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé.

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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

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