On the evening of November 11, shortly after shots were heard in the town of Salamabila in Congo´s eastern Maniema province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo two people with serious gunshot injuries arrived in health structures supported by Doctors Without Borders. A third person, with stab wounds, sought help the following morning. Our teams also treated several survivors of sexual violence.
The incident is just the latest example of the violence that the population in the Salamabila area has been experiencing for years. Close to Mount Namoya, a natural gold deposit, fights between armed groups over access to natural resources are frequently accompanied by attacks on the civilian population. Violence, kidnappings, looting and destruction of property are commonplace.
“Violence against the civilian population in Salamabila has almost become normalized, and it´s happening even outside of active conflict”, says MSF head of mission Carlos Francisco. “It´s having a serious impact on the physical and mental health of the people living here.”
Our teams on the ground in DRC are particularly alarmed by the high number of incidents of sexual violence that our teams are seeing. Since the beginning of this year, we have treated close to 1,000 survivors. 85% of the perpetrators were armed men.
MSF teams have been active in the area since 2018, providing primary and secondary health care in several hospitals and health centres. One of our priorities is the support of people who survived sexual violence, including through psycho-social care.
“Attacks on the population need to stop. We call on all armed actors and anyone carrying an arm in the area to respect international humanitarian law, and to not harm but protect civilians, at all costs”, says Francisco.
We call on other humanitarian actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo to act and strengthen protection services for the people of Salamabila who have been suffering in silence for far too long.