Democratic Republic of Congo

New wave of violence brings death and trauma for people living in North Kivu province, eastern DRC

A violent attack by men armed with hammers, and the burning of a village of internally displaced people, are two in a series of violent events suffered by people living in the Kivu Provinces of eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recently. The number of gunshot and rape victims being treated by medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in its hospital in Mweso, North Kivu, also rose in August, leading to heightened concern about the levels of violence suffered by people living in the conflict affected area.

On Thursday, August 26, MSF was alerted to a brutal attack in a small village 20 kilometres from Mweso.

“At 22:30, August 25, eight men entered the village armed with hammers and attacked more than 20 people”, explained MSF medical coordinator Martins Dada. “As soon as we heard the next morning, we immediately drove to the village to provide emergency medical care. Once there, the seriousness of the situation became clear. We quickly took care of the wounded, putting in intra-venous [IVs]. One of the victims died on the scene. Another person had passed away before we arrived”.

There were 15 people admitted to the MSF hospital in Mweso, seven of whom were in a coma having suffered severe skull fractures and eight others who were severely wounded. The first patient died on Friday evening: a 15 year old boy. Since then, another patient passed away, while the rest remain in a serious condition, including a pregnant woman. All patients are extremely traumatised.

“We were stitching head injuries all day,” said Dada, “Everyone is in shock. The villagers are too shattered to speak. One man is totally confused and is constantly terrified, he calls and cries and kicks and beats until we calm him down and he returns to his coma. Then he wakes and relives the entire story again."

Just days before, MSF tended to patients wounded during the burning and looting of a camp for internally displaced persons.

“One hundred and seventy shacks were burned to the ground and another 80 homes were looted”, said MSF Mental Health worker, Joelle Depeyrot.

MSF does not know who the perpetrators of these horrific attacks were, but is shocked by the brutality of the incidents and the ongoing level of violence suffered by the people caught up in the conflict in eastern DRC. Since May, 2010, the number of rape victims being treated at MSF’s hospital in Mweso has gone up nearly two-fold, with more than 40 patients being provided with treatment in August. Likewise, the average case load of victims of physical violence has doubled in August, to more than 20 cases, compared to previous months.

“Since these incidents, other patients have come to us in a state of agitation and fear”, continued Depeyrot. “They were not [at this attack] but they have lived through other horrific events. And they have heard the stories. They report being scared, scared all the time. They spend their time wondering when they will be tortured and killed”.

MSF continues to provide much needed emergency healthcare to people in the places most affected by the conflict in eastern Congo, including emergency assistance, healthcare, treating victims of sexual violence, providing psychosocial care, running vaccination campaigns, and responding to disease outbreaks.