July 19, 2012 - Los Angeles, Calif. - Heavy fighting that erupted this week around the town of Walikale in North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has forced International Medical Corps to evacuate its staff to safety and suspend operations until the security situation has stabilized. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) retrieved International Medical Corps’ staff from Walikale on July 18 and 19 and transferred them safely to Goma.
Intensifying violence in North and South Kivu provinces of eastern DRC has taken a severe toll on an already vulnerable civilian population. Defections among Congolese soldiers in early April escalated latent tensions within the poorly integrated Congolese army, creating an increasingly volatile and unpredictable security situation. More than 220,000 civilians have fled their homes in recent months, and millions more cannot meet their basic needs. Over 15,000 new cases of cholera and 17,000 cases of measles have been reported.
Walikale is particularly insecure, as there are a number of militia and rebel groups active in the area, causing instability and repeated displacement. International Medical Corps has worked in Walikale territory for the last three years, delivering primary health care services to internally displaced persons and host populations in affected conflict zones. In addition to providing primary care and supporting capacity building in health centers, International Medical Corps staff in Walikale have provided clinical management of rape cases and conducted health education aimed at preventing common illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory tract infections. International Medical Corps is also starting rehabilitation of the maternity ward at Walikale Central Hospital and establishing basic maternity wards in a few health structures within the Walikale Health Zone.
International Medical Corps’ global security team is monitoring the situation in Walikale closely and ensuring the utmost safety of its staff. With Congolese civilians suffering greatly and communicable diseases on the rise, International Medical Corps hopes for a swift resumption of its operations there, and to provide relief to those who need it most.
International Medical Corps began working in DRC in 1999 and has since served approximately two million people, 80 percent of them displaced by the war. Today, International Medical Corps provides health care, nutrition, food security, sexual violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services in some of DRC’s most remote and volatile areas, often where the presence of other international organizations is extremely limited or non-existent.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.