More than 200 families had to flee their homes and take refuge in the forest in the Ziralo area, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following heavy fighting between armed groups earlier this month. Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) launched an emergency operation to provide relief for the displaced people.
Since the initiative started in mid-March, MSF has distributed more than 140 household kits, set up drinking water access and offered psychological support to affected families. After the fighting, the MSF team went to the village of Bunyangungu, where they found nothing but an empty site with almost every house burnt to ashes.
“We all fled to the bush when we saw the armed men coming down from the mountains,” says the village chief, who fled during the attack.
Burnt houses. © Tommaso Santo/MSF
In the surrounding villages of Ndumba and Bohole, everything was also destroyed but the population has slowly started to return. MSF teams have reported a total of 207 burnt houses in these three villages.
On the day of the fighting in Bohole, Lea Nandundo, a 25-year-old mother of four children, had gone to work in the fields. When she came back, all the houses were on fire and the village was empty. “Fortunately, a neighbour had taken my children and I managed to find them later,” she says.
Now she is concerned about the future, “I lost everything: my house, the seeds for cultivation and my work tools,” she explains.
Repeated fighting over the last two years weakens an already vulnerable population in this completely isolated enclave, with almost no access to healthcare.
South Kivu, remains confronted by ethnic conflicts and fighting between the different armed groups and security forces. This instability leads to significant population displacements.
Focus on the safety of people
To overcome this situation, MSF took charge of the clinic in Tushunguti in 2014 and since last year has reinforced its support by setting up two permanent malaria treatment centres in remote villages.
MSF calls on all the parties involved in the conflict in Eastern DRC to respect humanitarian law, the integrity of facilities and medical staff, and to focus on the safety of people.
MSF has been working in DRC since 1981. Today, more than 3,000 Congolese people work with nearly 200 international staff members to assist with more than twenty programmes around the country.