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July 19, 2012

Doctors Without Borders Suspends Eastern DRC Operations

by Mohammed Yusuf

NAIROBI —  Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, has suspended operations in a town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the center of heavy fighting between government forces and rebel groups. MSF says it was treating more than 1,000 patients a week in the town of Walikale, which was in the midst of a malaria outbreak. 

Andrew Mews, head of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) mission in North Kivu province, told VOA its two-month operation of providing treatment to the displaced population came to abrupt end on Tuesday when violence escalated in and around the town of Walikale.

“We took quite an early decision on Tuesday that our medical team had to hibernate in the MSF base because the fighting became very intense and also which spread across the town center with sporadic battle[s] in different areas of the town,“ said Mews.

According to Mews, the initial attack came from a local rebel militia called Rahiya Mutomboki, which is fighting against the Congo-based Rwandan Hutu rebel group known as FDLR.
 
The United Nations mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, has accused Rahiya Mutomboki of firing on peacekeepers.
 
Elsewhere in North Kivu province, Congolese military forces are battling a group of rebel soldiers known as M23.

The United Nations says more than 220,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu since fighting began in April.