Many of you have seen or heard news reports of the current wave of unrest and rebel fighting in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here is an update on the situation in the DRC from our HEAL Africa staff there:
The situation in the city of Goma (where HEAL Africa is based) is calm at present. For now, there seems to be little risk that the M23 rebel group will attack Goma. MONUSCO (the UN peacekeeping mission) is maintaining a highly visible presence in town, and are patrolling frequently with tanks. The downside of this is that, while it provides added stability for the city of Goma, MONUSCO forces are subsequently decreased and weakened in the rural areas surrounding Goma where much of the fighting is now taking place. This means that people in several villages have been left on their own without security or protection.
In Rutshuru, fighting is actively going on between the D.R.C. Army and M23. A team from HEAL Africa is attempting to ascertain the status of the operations and programs we support in those areas. We have learned through OCHA (The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) that there are health centers which no longer have equipment and cannot be reached to be resupplied due to the fighting. Sadly, people are dying from treatable diseases like cholera because they cannot gain access to the most basic of health interventions such as IV fluids. Aid agencies and local organizations like HEAL Africa are endeavoring to reach those most in need despite the dangers of traveling in the region.
Fighting is also taking place in Walikale where HEAL Africa operates a number of programs. A group of MaiMai rebel soldiers has recently taken the city. Emma, one of HEAL Africa’s project leaders, was working there and is now restricted to the MONUSCO base in Walikale where he thankfully remains safe.
All in all, the security situation has greatly deteriorated in the region. The main hospital and the majority of the staff, all of whom are in Goma, are safe and secure as the fighting remains far away. Nevertheless, the population is suffering a great deal and we are doing our best to continue to deliver services. During fighting, the D.R.C. citizens in these rural areas often flee into the forest where they have little protection and lack even the most basic needs for survival. Many young people are forced to join armed groups, while many others hide to avoid being conscripted to fight.
During these difficult and dangerous times, HEAL Africa is appealing for emergency funding to assist those affected, particularly those in the Ruthsuru and Walikale regions. With the new rounds of fighting and large-scale population displacement, our HEAL Africa hospital and programs are being inundated with sexual violence survivors, trauma cases, and other pressing health and well-being needs.If possible, we ask for any financial support you can offer to help the people of the D.R.C. in this time of crisis. Thank you for partnering with us in our efforts to assist them.