Survivors of a horrific attack in north-east DRC tell their story

Thousands of people are living in the bush with little food and healthcare and in most instances aid organisations are unable to reach them. Even where displaced people have congregated in more secure areas the aid response so far has been insufficient. The health system has been disrupted and most medical activities have had to be suspended because of insecurity.

Several MSF teams are operating in the region, providing emergency assistance and free medical services, including a project in the town of Dungu. Activities there include surgery, nutritional care, mental health, support to victims of sexual violence and primary health care in two health centres. Half of Dungu’s population of 45,000 are people who have been displaced by the violence.

Last Monday the MSF team in Dungu airlifted three survivors of a horrific attack that had occurred five days before in a small village near Bangadi, which lies 100 kilometers to the north-west of Dungu. The number of villagers who died in the attack is still not known.

MSF’s field coordinator Claire Debard organized the medical evacuation and had the opportunity to speak to the three survivors.

“Monday, 17 August 2009,

This afternoon the MSF team has taken in three wounded people who managed to survive a horrific attack that was carried out by an armed group near Bangadi.

The airlift to collect them was planned for yesterday but because of the bad weather the plane was unable to take off.

It was only today at 3.00 pm that our doctor was able to do the medical evacuation. He came back at 5.00pm with two men and a woman, all around sixty years old. They all had visible knee wounds and were very weak. We took them to the general hospital in Dungu where a medical team was waiting for them.

The patients presented with very severe wounds, including two open fractures and a closed fracture to the legs, which needed surgical interventions.

After their medical treatment I was able to speak to the two men, this is what they told me:

Ã?« I live in a village some 4 kilometers from Bangadi with my wife, our 5 year old daughter and my older brother. The head of our village told us to leave at the beginning of August and move to Bangadi because armed groups were nearby and he couldn’t ensure our safety.

Unfortunately, after a few days in Bangadi, we didn’t have any food left and the situation was getting difficult. That’s why, on Wednesday 12th of August, we decided to go back to our village to get some food. When we arrived, five armed men took us by surprise. They were accompanied by three hostages, including a woman who was translating what they were saying. They tied our hands and took us into the bush. The next day, they took my little girl to the village as they wanted to retrieve a chicken and peanuts. They came back without her, they only brought back the rope they had tied her with… she was dead.

They told us they wouldn’t kill us but that we needed to return to the village with them, once we were there they would take our food and beat us. And this is what they did: they hit our legs, knees and then they ran away into the bush, leaving us there. We spent the night lying on the ground.

On Monday morning, I decided I had to do something and I crawled to the next village, Yamba, some 2km away. I managed to get there. The villagers went to get help in Bangadi. My wife and I were taken there by bicycle, it was very painful. My brother had to be transported in a stretcher because he couldn’t stay on the bike. “