During the early morning of 4 December, several armed men broke into the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) compound in Mweso, in Masisi territory, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.
They subjected the staff to violence and threats of kidnapping, before robbing the compound of money and equipment.
“MSF strongly condemns this new attack and the violence that accompanied it”, said Anna Halford, MSF Head of Mission in North Kivu. “This incursion, and exaction against the personnel of a medical humanitarian organisation, necessitates that everything possible is done to find the people responsible.”
MSF was forced to suspend its major humanitarian project in Mweso following the abduction of two staff members in December 2015, leaving 450,000 people without free medical care.
MSF restarted activities four months later in 2016, when some conditions for the return were met, including the arrest of the main suspects of that attack and the understanding by the authorities and the community that such incidents cannot be tolerated.
“One of the conditions for the resumption of our activities last year was the understanding by the local community that our medical facilities and compounds, our transportation and personnel, must be respected”, said Halford. “That’s the only way we can continue providing medical assistance to the population of Mweso. I am deeply concerned that despite concerted efforts to remain in Mweso since 2015, MSF continues to be a target of violence.”
DRC’s health indicators are among the lowest in the world, while North Kivu province hosts the largest number of displaced people in DRC due to the on-going conflict of the last 30 years. The medical needs of the Mweso area are urgent and last year, MSF teams treated 194,047 patients, including 97,282 for malaria. They also treated 5,749 children for severe malnutrition, and provided safe conditions and medical care for 6,254 births.