Photo: Patients in the inpatient department of an MSF hospital in Katanga Province. DRC 2012 © Sandra Smiley/MSF
DRC: Thousands of Displaced Civilians at Risk in Katanga Province
As tensions increase between government forces and Mai-Mai militias in Katanga province, southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, all parties must avoid harming thousands of civilians who have fled into the surrounding bush.
The exact extent of the displacement is hard to quantify, but most of the villages along a 115-kilometer [about 71 miles] road from Shamwana to Dubie are empty, as are villages along a 70-kilometer [about 43 miles] stretch between Shamwana and Mpiana.
"Civilians risk being caught up in the fighting and mistaken for combatants," said Christine Slagt, MSF project coordinator in Shamwana. "Some militia groups are preventing people from leaving the area."
This week, MSF removed nonessential staff from its referral hospital in Shamwana, about 300 kilometers [about 186 miles] from the provincial capital Lubumbashi, leaving a skilled core team with surgical capacity to respond to an expected increase in war-wounded patients.
MSF has been running the hospital since May 2006, providing people living in the Kiambi, Mitwaba, and Kilwa health zones with free health care. Medical teams treat malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition, and provide reproductive health services, mental health care, and emergency surgery.