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MSF: Sexual violence, murder, looting and mass displacement in the DRC

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alerts about a complex crisis where 2.8m people are facing multiple layers of relentless violence. Humanitarian organisations are powerless in the face of such systemic abuses against communities.

At the beginning of the 2021, an exploratory assignment was launched by our MSF teams in Boga, an isolated region in the DRC, initially with a specific focus on malnutrition. Our medical teams sent to provide assistance to residents and displaced people seeking refuge in the area, identified an increase in the number of women seeking support from the medical teams in charge of sexual and reproductive health for cases of sexual assault and rape.

In January and February 2021 alone, we took care of 67 survivors of sexual violence. “These women are assaulted by armed men, on the road or in the agricultural fields where they work,” says Amande Bazerolle, MSF emergency coordinator who has spent several weeks in Ituri province, in east of DRC. ”They are terrified to go back to the fields, but some still do, despite the risks. This shows how little choice they have when trying to survive and feed their families.” Indeed, abandoning the fields, which are these families’ primary source of food, increases the risk of malnutrition and people’s dependence on food assistance.

Like Boga, all the communities in Ituri province, whose lives have been disrupted by three years of systematic violence, are currently in need of assistance and relief. Although there are many humanitarian organisations, they are no longer able to cover the ever-increasing health needs and the funding allocated remains far below what is required.

These stories come on top of the many other accounts of violence that people in Ituri continue to face. Murder, sexual violence, looted villages and healthcare centres are part of people’s daily realities. “The healthcare system is in ruins. More than 70 healthcare centres have been looted or destroyed, preventing thousands of people from accessing healthcare. This is a catastrophic situation” says Frédéric Lai Manantsoa, MSF head of mission in the DRC.

Issued by MSF

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