Geneva: Displaced people living in the settlements around the city of Kalémie in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have limited access to healthcare and face alarming shortages of food, water and shelter, said international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Ten months after being driven from their homes by intercommunal fighting, they remain living in desperate conditions and are in immediate need of more humanitarian assistance.
In Tanganyika province, nearly half a million people were displaced between July 2016 and March 2017 due to violence, according to UN estimates. Over 44,000 are living in settlements around the city of Kalémie. In April, during a measles vaccination campaign, MSF evaluated malnutrition in 5,700 children under five in ten of these settlements. The screening revealed malnutrition levels above the emergency threshold: 16% were malnourished and 4.5% severely so.
“Children are dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and measles,” says Hugues Robert, MSF’s emergency programme manager. “People have been here for almost a year but the mortality rate for children under five is what we would expect to see in the acute phase of an emergency.”
Since March, MSF teams have been providing emergency assistance to displaced people in the territories of Kalémie and Kansimba through measles vaccinations, mobile clinics, water distribution and the construction of latrines and showers in some of the settlements. An MSF team has also been providing medical care to a group of around 1,500 displaced people in the village of Moke, where a malnutrition screening revealed just how critical the situation was. It showed that 51% of children under five were malnourished, 23% severely. MSF implemented a mobile clinic and distributed food. Two weeks ago these people were forced to leave the village when the original inhabitants returned, and with no other option they have now settled deep in the bush in a hard-to-reach area. Until they can safely return home, they must be afforded aid and protection.
MSF calls for an increased humanitarian response in the territories of Kalémie and Kansimba, Tanganyika province, from the United Nations agencies and the Congolese government. Conditions in the settlements need to be urgently improved, healthcare must be made easily accessible, food aid should be provided for families and for the host community and those at risk of violence should be afforded protection. Aid has been deployed and more is planned, but at the moment it remains woefully insufficient.
MSF has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1981. Since April 2017, MSF teams in Tanganyika province have been undertaking a measles vaccination campaign and addressing high levels of malnutrition among people displaced from their homes and the host communities.