London, 18 July 2012 – Heavy fighting over the last few days in Walikale, a town in the troubled North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has forced MSF to suspend its medical activities despite the area being in the midst of a malaria outbreak.
“The recent fighting and insecurity in Walikale make it impossible for our team to carry out their medical work,” said Andrew Mews, MSF’s Head of Mission in Goma. “We’re very concerned about civilians living in the area who are exposed to this violence and also denied healthcare as a result,” he added.
MSF started an emergency malaria intervention in Walikale in June 2012. Many of the people affected by the deadly disease had already been displaced by earlier fighting and were living in the dense rainforest that surrounds the town. In the last month, MSF was treating more than a thousand patients a week for malaria. Now, people in the area can no longer receive free lifesaving treatment.
“Not only are people in Walikale at the mercy of conflicting armed groups, they are also in the middle of a deadly malaria outbreak,” said Mews. “Any further displacement due to this violence is only likely to increase exposure to this deadly disease and a host of others,” he stressed.
In DRC, malaria remains the leading cause of death for children under five and is endemic throughout the country.
Although medical activities have been suspended in Walikale, MSF continues to provide high quality medical care in fourreference hospitals, 12 health centres and four health posts in the North Kivu province of DRC and four reference hospitals, 19 health centres and five health posts in the province of South Kivu. This is in addition to running several cholera treatmentcentres (CTCs), weekly mobile clinics, and emergency response activities as required.