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Medical Aid Group May Evacuate Staff in Conflict Area in Eastern DRC

The latest military offensive against Rwandan Hutu rebels in the Eastern DRC has reportedly caused at least 10,000 people to flee their villages, says Doctors Without Borders.

Fighting between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the FDLR began last month. The medical aid group says civilians in an isolated area of the Uvira region in South Kivu Province called Hauts Plateaux are being displaced, wounded and killed. What’s more, the group’s hospital in Katanga town is in the middle of the latest fighting.

From bad to worse

The situation is deteriorating says Philippe Havet, DRC country director for Doctors Without Borders, currently in the town of Bukavu.

“The situation is very, very, very bad,” he says. He reports fighting between various factions, including government forces, the FDLR and Mai Mai militias.

Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, has patients from all sides in its Katanga hospital. Today, the Congolese army entered the hospital to arrest members of opposing factions. Havet says this violates MSF’s neutrality and now worries wounded civilians will now be afraid to go to MSF clinics and hospitals for care.

“They don’t trust different factions. They don’t trust FARDC,” he says, “This is catastrophic for the local population…. We cannot continue in this situation. We cannot work like that.”

It may be time to get out

“My priority is to save my team,” he says, “and probably this night…there will be a big clash in this area.”

Havet says it’s likely his team in Katanga will be evacuated Saturday morning.

Doctors Without Borders has called on all sides to respect international law and the safety of civilians. It also says the wounded should be allowed to have immediate access to emergency care.

The 10,000 people who’ve left villages in Hauts Plateaux have sought refuge near Mukumba, according to the group.