Rutshuru, DRC: Attacks on civilians causes thousands to flee

The displaced people who have managed to arrive to Kanyabayonga give accounts of violence inflicted against them while in Kibiridzi. People have been raped, tortured and beaten up.

Since fighting started on January 20 in the region of Rutshuru, in the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), tens of thousands of people have fled fighting and violence. Most of them come from Kibirizi area, north west of Rutshuru, where people have been beaten, raped and their homes looted.

At least 40,000 people have managed to reach the villages of Kanyabayonga, Kayna and Kirumba. Many others still remain in the bush around Kibiridzi, subject to violence and looting.

MSF teams are currently providing health care for the population in Kanyabayonga, where 25,000 people have arrived so far.

The displaced people who have managed to arrive to Kanyabayonga give accounts of violence inflicted against them while in Kibiridzi. People have been raped, tortured and beaten up.

In the past six days, MSF doctors have provided medical care for 23 rape victims.

The displaced also say that many people were unable to reach Kanyabayonga either due to insecurity on the route, or because they are too weak to keep on walking. These people have spent over two weeks hiding in the bush.

So far MSF staff have been unable to access this remaining population around Kibirizi, they are most likely to be in desperate need of help. Those who have managed to reach Kanyabayonga have spent one or two days walking, fleeing with only the belongings they could carry.

An MSF team is providing medical care for the displaced population in Kanyabayonga. The city is overcrowded, with two out of three homes hosting displaced families.

There is currently less than five liters of water per person per day.

In the past week, nearly 150 consultations have been carried out each day, and a total of 34 patients with medical complications have been referred to the MSF supported hospital in Kayna. Since the beginning of the combats, 20 injured have been treated in Kayna, and 30 in Rutshuru Hospital.

MSF teams who evacuated from Rutshuru and Katwiguru three weeks ago have still not been able to return to work in the area. Regular visits have been carried out to Rutshuru hospital in order to supply medicine and medical material, allowing the hospital to remain functional. However, there has been a decline of activities in the hospital of Rutshuru as insecurity limits people's ability to travel and has disrupted referral systems.

Before the evacuation, MSF doctors in Katwiguru health centre carried out an average of 300 consultations a week. An ambulance system was also set up, which transferred an average of 50 severe cases a week to Rutshuru Hospital.