Congo faces acute health crisis amid rising violence

June 24, 2023
1 min read
MSF and Ministry of Health staff examine patients at the Numbi hospital centre, in South Kivu province. Image: CHARLY KASEREKA/MSF

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is currently grappling with an acute health crisis with the country facing a massive spike in deadly infectious diseases that has been exacerbated by a surge in violence.

The worst-affected eastern provinces include Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu where about 6 million people have been uprooted by violence since March 2022.

In North Kivu, more than 17 000 cholera cases and 148 deaths have been reported since December 2022. The disease has also affected neighbouring South Kivu. The two provinces alone account for 82% of the more than 136 000 measles cases, including 2000 deaths, recorded in the country so far this year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In addition to the armed violence, flooding earlier this year affected 36 health facilities in North Kivu, South Kivu, Kasai and Tshopo provinces, further increasing health needs. During an outbreak of violence in North Kivu in October 2022, at least 32 health facilities were looted or damaged, limiting access to services.

In Mai-Ndombe, Kasai and Tshopo provinces, flooding and inter-community violence have uprooted nearly 100 000 people. Around 18 000 measles cases and 444 deaths have been recorded in the three provinces.

United Nations humanitarian agencies have sounded the alarm over the rising humanitarian needs in eastern DRC and called for an immediate step-up of operations to assist the affected population. With the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Mai-Ndombe, Kasai and Tshopo.

 “The worsening insecurity has taken a heavy toll on millions of people already faced with dire living conditions deprived of critical basic services such as health,” Dr Boureima Hama Sambo, WHO Representative in the DRC said, adding that the WHO has activated its maximum level of organizational response to the humanitarian crisis in the affected provinces.

Some of the camps for displaced people located in Ituri Province. Image: MSF

Over the past year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has consistently documented widespread killings and rapes by the Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in North Kivu as well as abuses by other armed groups. A resident of a village attacked by the rebels said, “the M23 raped women, forced people to work for them, and beat people up.” Mass graves containing the bodies believed to be of villagers and captured militia members allegedly executed by M23 fighters were uncovered in the village of Kishishe.

United Nations investigators have documented apparent war crimes by the M23 and other armed groups. Some of these groups continue to wreak havoc among civilians, particularly in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Amid the violence, Congolese army units have backed armed groups implicated in serious crimes.


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