For years, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been in the grip of an emergency. Persistent conflict in its eastern provinces and instability in other regions have led to recurrent humanitarian crises and outbreaks of disease. In areas affected by conflict, members of numerous militias and armed groups do not appear to distinguish between civilians and combatants – and neither do the soldiers of the Congolese national army (FARDC). There is little respect for the neutrality of medical facilities, for humanitarian principles or for medical ethics. MSF has seen armed men enter hospitals and harass patients; clinics abandoned as medical staff flee violence; health facilities looted and health workers threatened; patient records confiscated in violation of patient confidentiality. Meanwhile, a heavily armed United Nations intervention brigade (MONUSCO, formerly known as MONUC) has been authorised by the UN Security Council to neutralise armed groups that oppose the authority of the state. This seriously compromises the perception of humanitarian and medical aid as a neutral activity, as these offensive operations by the UN are being carried out in vehicles that resemble those of humanitarian organisations.