Alarming medical and sanitary situation in Ituri (DRC)
Bunia - Since July 14, an emergency team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been working in Gety, located south of Bunia, the capital of Ituri District, assisting a population of 39,000 people.
Bringing aid to the displaced is particularly difficult as security conditions remain tenuous in the area and the population has doubled in the past week, going from 22,000 on the July 14, to current levels of 39,000. However assistance is crucial as the displaced families, exhausted by the flight, are gathered in dire sanitary conditions.
As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares for its first presidential elections in 40 years, the situation remains tense and volatile in the northeastern district of Ituri, one of the epicenters of violence in the country. Attacks and clashes between Congolese army forces and militia groups are ongoing, causing significant population displacements.
The 39,000 displaced persons living in Gety are particularly vulnerable. After weeks spent in the bush following attacks and the destruction of their villages, people are in an extremely weakened state. They now live in largely unsatisfying sanitary conditions.
As of today, only 120 latrines are available while, for such a population, a minimum of 800 is required in an emergency setting. Sources of drinking water are located outside of the town, a few kilometers away for the gathering area.
In less than one week, 130 children suffering from severe malnutrition, mostly Kwashiorkor, were referred by the MSF emergency team to the Bon Marché Hospital in Bunia, where MSF has been working for the past three years. Additional tents have been set up within the hospital perimeter. Mortality rates among children under three-years-of-age are particularly high.
"In only one day, 16 children died of malnutrition and disease, in this area of Gety, which counts 16,000 people,” explained Laurent Ligozat, in charge of operations.
In Gety, MSF teams have also been conducting a measles vaccination campaign for children under 15-years-of-age. Nearly 10,000 children have already been vaccinated.
A medical doctor, a nurse, and three logisticians has left Geneva, to complete the team already present in Gety (one MD, two nurses, two logisticians with one specialized in water and sanitation). On Saturday, August 22, a second-cargo plane containing 12 tons of emergency medical equipment (including therapeutic food) will leave MSF's logistical center in Bordeaux, France.
MSF has been working in Ituri since 2003, in the Bon Marché hospital of Bunia (set up by MSF during the 2003 violence). There are 325 Congolese and 14 International staff working in this 300 bed hospital. Surgery, maternal care and medical care for victims of sexual violence are included in the health services. The team also secures an emergency response in the area, such as the present one in Gety.