MSF denounces catastrophic health care situation in the DRC

The international aid organisation MSF urges EU donors for increased international involvement and funding

Brussels, 19th December 2001 - The situation of the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is catastrophic, with alarming death rates - also among children under five - according to a new study published today by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The report "Violence and Access to Health in the DRC"1 presents data on mortality, violence and non-access to health care, based on surveys conducted by MSF in five zones of the DRC (including both sides of the front-line) between August and October 2001. The results show a catastrophic situation in all areas surveyed, reaching an emergency level near the front-line.

MSF findings about mortality rates are disconcerting. In Basankusu - an area very close to the front-line - around 10% of the global population had died over a 12-month period. This is five times higher than normally expected.

Children have been particularly affected by the war in this zone, where around a quarter of children under five died over a 12-month period, although in a normal situation the mortality rate for children of this age would be 3.6%.

The increased mortality in zones affected by war is mainly due to the indirect effects of violence, such an increase in infectious diseases and malnutrition. Violence led to loss of food and basic assets, medicines and services.

In the two zones on either side of the front line (Basankusu and Kilwa), the proportion of families being looted reached a dizzying rate of 37% and 80% for each zone during the second war. Physical violence has also increased in the zones near the front-line. In Basankusu for example, 17% of the households have witnessed a case of torture during the second war.

In general, people do not have access to healthcare, both in the zones along the front-line as in isolated areas. In four out of the five areas targeted by the survey, between 40% and 70% of people have no access to healthcare, mainly for financial reasons, but also due to lack of medicines and transportation.

Today's launch of the MSF report coincides with the opening in Brussels of the European Union's (EU) Donors conference on Congo. MSF calls for :

  • a tripling of the funding granted to humanitarian action in general and to health services in particular;
  • an unconditional financial aid for people's fundamental needs. According to MSF, it is inadmissible that the EU aid is allocated pending the progress of the peace process.
  • a reinforcement of aid in the problem zones, and greater adaptability and flexibility in the approach to projects and their funding.

1"Violence and Access to Health in Congo (DRC): Results of five epidemiological surveys", by Dr. Michel Van Herp, Véronique Parqué and Edward Rackley, Médecins Sans Frontières, December 2001. Download report [Microsoft Word].