Urgent humanitarian response needed to unprecedented crises in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo

Multiple humanitarian crises are unfolding in Ituri province, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to international medical organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The recent upsurge in violence across the regions of Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu have forced thousands to flee their homes. Despite MSF’s repeated calls on international aid organisations to scale up humanitarian aid, the majority of the displaced still haven’t received even the most basic assistance.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time there are important humanitarian needs in the country,” explains Dr Moussa Ousman, MSF Head of Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “This time we are seeing not only mass displacement due to violence but also a rapidly spreading measles outbreak and an Ebola epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down, all at the same time. This is unprecedented.”

Democratic Republic of Congo, Ituri
MSF supports the running of a special measles unit at Bunia General Hospital. Severe and complicated measles patients are treated here. More than 1500 people have died from measles in the current epidemic. Photo: Pablo Garrigos/MSF

Intercommunal violence has been increasing in Ituri since December 2017, and the large majority of people displaced as a result have been in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, some for more than a year.

Since October 2018, MSF has conducted three mortality surveys in the locations of Drodro, Nozzi and Angumu. All showed that the mortality rates in these communities were far above emergency levels.

“Our surveys show that people are mainly dying from preventable diseases such as malaria, measles and diarrhoea,” says Dr Ousman. “That is very worrying. Especially as it has not yet been possible to vaccinate against measles because of the ongoing Ebola outbreak, and the fear of Ebola further spreading. Together with the ministry of health, we are looking at what innovative strategies we can implement given the circumstances, but more help is urgently needed here to prevent more deaths.”

Democratic Republic of Congo, Ituri humanitarian crisis
Living conditions are poor in the camps for internally displaced people near Bunia. Photo: Pablo Garrigos/MSF

MSF is supporting the local ministry of health to provide medical care and respond to the most acute needs of the displaced in Drodro, Nizzi and Bunia. Our teams are also providing clean water, distributing relief items and constructing showers and latrines. Nevertheless, the most urgent needs of thousands of families remain unmet.

MSF urges for an immediate scale-up of long-term humanitarian assistance, to prevent the loss of more lives and to ensure decent living conditions for all those who have been forced to flee.

Find out about MSF's activities in DRC