The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is living through a medical and humanitarian crisis, the international charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has said.
In a report that the charity says seeks to expose the true extent of the medical and humanitarian emergency in the violence-torn country, MSF said on Monday that the Congolese living in the eastern provinces plagued by conflict have been affected most.
The report, Silent Suffering in Democratic Republic of Congo, says armed groups and militias do not appear to distinguish between civilians and combatants.
“MSF has seen the consequences and received first-hand accounts of abuse, harassment, targeted attacks, counter-attacks and massacres carried out by a variety of armed groups on civilians,” the report says.
“Every day, MSF is confronted with the medical consequences of violence in its hospitals, health centres and mobile clinics in DR Congo.
“Conflict causes people to put off visiting health posts or to flee their homes, impeding access to health services. Medical personnel and hospitals are regularly attacked. This is unacceptable and makes provision of lifesaving care a difficult, if not impossible, task.”
Suspension of services due to attacks leave many people without care on a regular basis, the charity said.
The DRC has been embroiled in conflict and political crisis for years, since the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.
A group of rebel armies, including Rwandan refugees accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, have since set up camp in the country’s east, often fighting each other and with the Congolese army over mineral wealth.
MSF said it treats more survivors of sexual violence in DRC than it does in any other country worldwide.
In 2012, MSF teams provided medical care to a total of 4,037 women, men and children after incidents of sexual violence in different project locations. The annual number of cases treated has not dropped below this number in the past five years, the report said.
“In addition to the physical trauma suffered by victims of sexual violence, there are a large number of medical consequences, including the risk of HIV/AIDS, STIs and serious complications for reproductive health,” the report said.
“Women may fall pregnant from the attack, and women who are pregnant at the time of the attack risk losing the foetus.”