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Patients, MSF Staff Flee Fighting in DRC Town of Pinga

  • Kim Lewis

Renewed fighting in the DRC’s North Kivu Province town of Pinga has forced thousands of residents to flee into the surrounding forests once again. The medical aid group, Doctors Without Borders, also known by the acronym MSF, said the fighting is taking a heavy toll both on civilians and staff.

Eleven members of MSF’s Congolese staff had been missing since the latest violence began on April 28, but as of May 3, two now have been located. Since 2012, the town has changed hands eight times among various militant groups.

“Pinga at this moment is luckily a little bit calmer again after we’ve had an intense period of about three days of fighting. So we’re back to the situation that it was last Sunday, at five o’clock in the morning when the first attack happened,” said Jan Peter Stellema, MSF’s operations manager in Goma.

MSF is the only medical aid group supporting the DRC’s Ministry of Health in Pinga and surrounding areas, so for those that have left Pinga there is a total lack of healthcare.

“Until last Sunday our therapeutic feeding programs saw quite a bit of patients in the hospital. Due to the fighting, all mothers and all malnourished children have left, so there is no one in the hospital,” explained Stellema.

He who also pointed out that maternity activities have come to a standstill at the hospital, as well the surrounding clinics, because people are no longer going to the hospital or town clinics. “That means if there is a complicated delivery, the risk of loss of life increases during times of insecurity,” said Stellema.

The two formerly missing staff members, who’ve been located, are in the provincial capital of Goma.

“I spoke this morning to a guard who had fled Pinga on Monday morning. He has walked for about 160 kilometers in the past couple of days and reached Goma yesterday evening. And he told me the story that he was just terrified, scared for his life, after the wave of attack number two happened and he decided to run,” explained Stellema.

He said MSF hopes the remaining staff members will appear soon and be willing to go back to Pinga to conduct their work.