Democratic Republic of Congo

MSF provides emergency medical care in conflict-affected Kasai region

In response to the conflict in the Greater Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided free emergency and routine medical care to 4,200 patients in and around Kananga city (Kasai Central province) and in Tshikapa (Kasai province).

Since 10 May, MSF has cared for 198 patients in its emergency department in Kananga, a city of 750,000 people in Kasai Central region. A third of these were victims of violence. One hundred and seven trauma patients have been admitted to the MSF-managed trauma wing of Kananga’s general hospital. Half of those hospitalised were suffering from gunshot wounds, and another 15 per cent from other violent trauma (such as knife and machete wounds).

MSF fully rehabilitated the hospital’s trauma wing and increased its capacity from 25 to 49 beds by building a new extension. The service is now fully managed by MSF staff, both international and Congolese, as a self-contained, independent structure within the public hospital. All MSF’s medical services  are free of charge.

“The agreements between MSF and the Ministry of Health state that the hospital and mobile clinics are solely managed by MSF,” says Barbara Turchet, MSF’s deputy head of mission.

“Medical services are based exclusively on medical needs, as assessed by medical professionals. Strictly no weapons, be they from individuals or official armed forces, are tolerated inside the facility. No patient can be arrested while inside the medical facility or during a referral. MSF ensures strict medical confidentiality, as per medical ethics.”

Since the second week of June, the organisation has been working in the urban part of Tshikapa (Kasai province), supporting three health centres and one hospital in different areas of the city. MSF is providing medical and humanitarian assistance to susceptible groups in the area, such as children under five years of age, pregnant and lactating women, the wounded, and those in medical and surgical emergency situations.

Between 8 June and 2 July, MSF treated 266 malnourished children through one inpatient and two outpatient therapeutic feeding centres. The teams have carried out 787 consultations with children aged less than five years old, assisted 120 births, treated 45 people for conflict-related injuries —including four children with gun wounds and 10 children with machete-inflicted injuries— and received five cases of sexual violence.

MSF also operates a mobile clinic in Kananga and three on the axes around the city, towards Tshikapa and Demba. To date, these clinics have provided 2,757 medical consultations to people who have fled their homes and are living in the bush. This week, MSF teams have also started medical activities in the periphery of Tshikapa city.

“We are aware that MSF’s own response remains below what we suspect the needs are, and we are looking at ways to increase our medical and humanitarian response,” says Nicholas Papachrysostomou, emergency coordinator of MSF in Tshikapa.

In Angola’s Dundo province, MSF has been working for the past three months in the Mussengue and Cacanda  refugee camps,  which host more than 27,000 refugees from Kasai. Teams have set up two clinics, where they have already performed more than 12,000 medical consultations. They are also supporting the paediatric hospital (with a focus on malnutrition among children in the host and refugee community and in severe adult patients). MSF has recently finalised a vaccination campaign for more than 5,000 children (measles, yellow fever, polio and pentavalent). Teams have also worked in the provision of water and the initial construction of latrines, although drinking water and sanitation remain a challenge.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international humanitarian medical organisation. It has worked consistently in the DRC for 35 years, providing healthcare to victims of conflict and violence, displaced people and those affected by epidemics. It is currently present in 11 provinces across the country.

MSF has worked in the Great Kasai region on several occasions, for example to respond to two Ebola outbreaks in Kampungu in 2007 and 2008; to bring assistance to migrant workers expelled from Angola in 2007, and to conduct several emergency vaccination campaigns.