MSF sounds alarm on Congo

November 20, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 20 – The deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is hampering humanitarian efforts in the area, charity organisation Medecines Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.

MSF Field Coordinator for DRC Romain Gitenet told reporters in Nairobi that the crisis was worsening by day, despite the on-going international effort to restore peace.

“We have been operating under very difficult circumstances because we have to offer medical services to all parts of Congo including the areas that are in the controls of rebels,” he said, adding that hundreds had been injured in the crisis.

“The victims we have been treating appear to be harmed by very heavy weapons. There are very critical injuries suffered. And many people are really suffering,” he said at a press conference.

“And there are many people displaced too,” he added.

Mr Gitenet said rape was the most serious problem, revealing that MSF had treated up to 5700 rape victims since January and yet there were still more who fear to go to hospitals.

“The figure represents women treated by MSF alone, and it means there are many more rape victims treated by other humanitarian organisations,” he said, speaking of some women as old as 50 who had been raped by boys as young as 16.

“And there are children raped too. Some have developed a very bad attitude towards adults and have even refused to talk to them,” he said.

For instance, he said, there is a small girl who is admitted and she does not talk to adults. She sees them as enemies because of what she underwent.

“She only talked recently to some young girl who is admitted in the same ward. We put them together because they are traumatised but they undergo counselling,” he said.

“And women are not only raped, there are those who are taken as sex slaves and they stay for long time,” said Mr Gitenet.

“It is a situation almost like the one experienced in Kenya earlier in the year when we have people who can not move from one part of the country to the other. Even our team sometimes can not move to other ends but because we are doctors without borders, we negotiate even with the commanders of the controlled regions and we treat people. It is that serious,” he added.

MSF personnel face new security challenges every day, especially when they can not access some of the affected parts.

“Everyday is a headache to us, many NGO’s don’t get access to most parts and it is a crisis because there are people suffering and they can not access treatment,” he added.

“When there is too much security there are places we can not go for a temporary period when it gets better we go to those places and treat people. It is a very sad situation and it needs to be handled to save lives of people,” he said.


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