18 July 2012 — Heavy fighting over the last few days in Walikale, a town in the troubled North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has forced the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend its medical activities despite the area being in the midst of a malaria outbreak.
“The recent fighting and insecurity in Walikale make it impossible for our team to carry out their medical work,” said Andrew Mews, MSF’s Head of Mission in Goma. “We’re very concerned about the civilians living in the area that are exposed to this violence and are denied healthcare as a result.”
MSF started an emergency malaria intervention in Walikale in June 2012. Many of the people affected by the deadly disease had already been displaced by earlier fighting and were living in the dense rainforest that surrounds the town. In the last month, MSF was treating more than a thousand patients a week for malaria. Now, people in the area can no longer receive free lifesaving treatment.
“Not only are people in Walikale at the mercy of conflicting armed groups, they are also in the middle of a deadly malaria outbreak,” said Mews. “Any further displacement due to this violence is likely to increase exposure to this deadly disease and a host of others.”
In DRC, malaria remains the leading cause of death for children under five and is endemic in the country.
Although medical activities have been suspended in Walikale, MSF continues to provide high quality medical care in 4 reference hospitals, 12 health centers and 4 health posts in the North Kivu province of DRC and 4 reference hospitals, 19 health centers and 5 health posts in the province of South Kivu. This is in addition to running several cholera treatment centers (CTC), weekly mobile clinics, and emergency response activities as required.