The past week’s deaths of eight UN personnel in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the flight of more than a thousand Congolese refugees into camps in neighboring Uganda have focused new attention on one of Africa’s deadliest conflicts. The fighting in North Kivu Province, the Ituri District, Bunia town, and in southeastern Katanga Province involves rebels, Mai-Mai militias, breakaway political factions, UN peace monitors, Congolese government troops, and expatriates from Rwanda, Uganda, and Sudan.
One of the aid groups operating in the region is the medical rescue group Doctors Without Borders, MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres). It sets up camps for the displaced, treats their wounds, and escorts them to safety during protracted flare-ups.
MSF Program Officer Michael Neuman oversees operations in the DRC. He tells English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser how the attacks have destabilized the lives of civilians in the region: “They have been suffering several attacks over the last few years and they leave and flee pretty regularly on the roads in search of shelter.”
Asked what his organization needs to reduce tensions and make it safer for people to resume productive livelihoods in the eastern DRC, Michael Neuman says, “We need continuing funding to our operation, and we need acceptance. We need factions that fight each other to let us access the population that actually flee their homes in search of shelter, in search of food, in search of medical care.”