Friday, January 25, 2013

DR Congo: More destruction


Médecins Sans Frontières reports



DRC: Thousands of Displaced Civilians at Risk in Katanga Province

DRC 2012 © Sandra Smiley/MSF
Patients in the inpatient department of an MSF hospital in Katanga Province.

NEW YORK, JANUARY 25, 2013—As tensions increase between government forces and Mai-Mai militias in Katanga province, southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, all parties must avoid harming thousands of civilians who have fled into the surrounding bush, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

The exact extent of the displacement is hard to quantify, but most of the villages along a 115-kilometer [about 71 miles] road from Shamwana to Dubie are empty, as are villages along a 70-kilometer [about 43 miles] stretch between Shamwana and Mpiana.

Below is a piece ( 2010 ) from Friendly Planet News blog. 



Hundreds in the village were killed, and those not killed, fled into the forest where they struggled for food and shelter. The UN estimated the destruction of villages along the Red Road to be at the 80% level. Now, even 5 years later, the villages still look like they had been bombed back into the stone age. People are living in primitive grass huts or the ruined remains of where their homes used to be. The church at Kyubo was a mere footprint in the tall grass with three wooden crosses in front. (The picture shows the church under construction a year after our first visit.)

It is instructive to note the term Red Road ( La Route Rouge ) also known as the Triangle of death (  La Triangle de la Morte ). The blood from the killings endured by the people of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is said to have stained the road. This report  is also from the Katanga province in 2006.

NYONGA, KATANGA, 13 February 2006 (IRIN) - Two explosions from heavy weapons echoed from the eastern shore of Lake Upemba across the glassy waters to a tiny island formed from dead reeds. Displaced families were huddled there, under a makeshift shelter that was slowly sinking into the sludge. "From the sound of it, the army is pushing the Mayi-Mayi out of our villages," said Kulu Ngwande Abraham, an agronomist who fled his village by canoe with his wife and three children in mid-January. "We could soon be going back," he added. His wife, however, disagreed. "What happens when the army leaves and the Mayi-Mayi return?" she said. "We'll be worse off than we were." 

This remote wilderness of shallow lakes, marshes and quagmires near the source of the Congo River has become Katanga's newest battleground, as some 4,000 troops from the post-war army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - many with little or no training - chase cat-and-mouse-style the even less disciplined Mayi-Mayi rebels across the vast expanses of the north and centre of the province. In the process, tens of thousands of civilians are being displaced, though nobody really knows exactly how many. Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF) provides assistance to displaced people in more locations in Katanga than any other organisation. The medical charity said it knew of 92,000 people that were displaced in the last year, but many more may be hiding in the bush, terrified that the Mayi-Mayi would get them. 

                                           Displaced people on Lake Upemba, Katanga Province, DRC


And it would seem very little has changed from the same article.

This remote wilderness of shallow lakes, marshes and quagmires near the source of the Congo River has become Katanga's newest battleground, as some 4,000 troops from the post-war army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - many with little or no training - chase cat-and-mouse-style the even less disciplined Mayi-Mayi rebels across the vast expanses of the north and centre of the province.

"Civilians risk being caught up in the fighting and mistaken for combatants," said Christine Slagt, MSF project coordinator in Shamwana. "Some militia groups are preventing people from leaving the area." 

This week, MSF removed nonessential staff from its referral hospital in Shamwana, about 300 kilometers [about 186 miles] from the provincial capital Lubumbashi, leaving a skilled core team with surgical capacity to respond to an expected increase in war-wounded patients.

It would be nice to think that gains made could be held rather than the situation that existed in 2005 / 6 being replicated again in 2013.

MSF has been running the hospital since May 2006, providing people living in the Kiambi, Mitwaba, and Kilwa health zones with free health care. Medical teams treat malariatuberculosisHIV/AIDS, and malnutrition, and provide reproductive health services, mental health care, and emergency surgery.
The medical consequences of displacement are severe, with many patients now unable to return to health facilities to continue essential medical treatment. The majority of children in MSF nutritional programs have now defaulted, as have most patients receiving anti retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS. A measles vaccination campaign in September was interrupted when people fled due to fighting in Kiambi, leaving thousands of children susceptible to an outbreak of the disease.

Over the last five years, MSF surgeons in Shamwana have operated on hundreds of women for internal injuries sustained during childbirth, but the current displacement has halted these efforts as well.

To make matters worse, the region is experiencing a peak in malaria due to the rainy season. Since October, MSF has treated on average nearly 1,000 patients per week for the disease, most of whom are children under 5 years of age.

Yet again the DR Congo demonstrates man's inhumanity and the innocent die. 

"We’re particularly concerned about the very vulnerable hiding in the bush who cannot access medical care," Slagt said. "Severe malaria can be fatal in children if left untreated and pregnant women with complications during labor are in a life-threatening predicament." 

The area of the conflict has a violent history. In 2005, clashes between Mai-Mai rebels and the military in Katanga resulted in a traumatized population. Many people witnessed or experienced violence and rape, had family members killed, fled because of fighting, or saw their homes and possessions go up in flames. Since then, there was relative calm in the region until recently.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that you can shorten your long links with AdFly and get dollars for every click on your short links.

    ReplyDelete