Bunia/Geneva, October 24, 2013. With clashes intensifying in South Irumu, Oriental Province since October 21, Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls on the parties to the conflict to respect the civilian populations and the integrity of medical facilities. The medical organization also reports that the level of humanitarian aid is insufficient to meet the displaced persons’ most urgent needs and calls further for additional resources to meet the needs there.
Since August 23, governmental forces (FARDC) and Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri militia (FRPI) have been battling over control of the territory. This situation has a direct effect on the population. More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and are living in fear of gunfire and systematic looting. “The populations have simply been abandoned,” says Fred Meylan, MSF emergency coordinator in Geti.
In September, intense fighting took place within Geti state’s medical center, which receives MSF support, resulting in the death of a Ministry of Health nurse and wounding three hospitalized patients. Most of the area’s medical facilities have been looted and destroyed in recent weeks.
“This situation is unacceptable,” Meylan says. “Up to now, we have managed to maintain life-saving emergency services and treat the wounded, but the parties to the conflict must respect the integrity of health care facilities." The medical humanitarian organization was planning to conduct a measles vaccination campaign but has had to postpone the activity and reduce its teams following clashes close to its base in Geti.
Since the crisis began, MSF has held more than 17,000 medical consultations in Geti and Munobi, performed 43 operations on wounded patients and 17 Cesarean deliveries, and admitted 165 patients for emergency treatment and intensive care. In addition to the medical assistance provided in Geti, MSF’s teams are treating and distributing more than 100,000 liters of water per day to supply the displaced populations, who are living in makeshift shelters without drinking water. The organization has also built more than 350 latrines to prevent the risk of epidemics associated with the terrible sanitary conditions.
The humanitarian response remains largely inadequate, particularly in the stable areas around Lagabo, Soke, Songolo and Malo, where the first displaced persons began arriving in late August, having left everything - houses, belongings, fields, and harvest – behind. “They are struggling every day to meet their most basic needs,” Meylan says. “Today, most of them no longer have access to medical care. This is particularly worrisome as part of the region has been experiencing a measles epidemic for several months.”
“Humanitarian assistance must be strengthened in the areas that are not affected by the clashes,” he adds. “History is repeating itself. Once again, civilians are the first victims of the fighting.”
MSF has been working in Geti since 2006, when it provided assistance to people who had fled fighting between soldiers and militias. The organization has had a continuous presence there since 2008 through its support to the health center and the Geti general referral hospital, working with health authorities.