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Merlin – which has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1997 - is scaling up its work there in response to rising violence. Armed fighting in North Kivu province between rebel factions and government forces has been on the increase since March this year, with a dramatic escalation in recent days.
It is thought that between 50,000 to 100,000 people have been displaced over the weekend (including tens of thousands living in displaced camps) to escape being caught in the crossfire. The fiercest battles are currently affecting Goma, the provincial capital.
Goma is a densely populated city, and Merlin is particularly concerned about the impact of fighting on its civilian population and the deterioration of sanitation and spread of communicable diseases as a result of rapidly moving populations. As one of the few international NGOs with the ability to immediately respond in Goma, Merlin will immediately reinforce its services to reach those people who would otherwise have no access to basic healthcare.
Sophie Goudet, Merlin’s programme coordinator, explained what the staff will be doing: “Because people have fled, our first job is to find out where they have gone to. We will be searching schools, churches, football fields – any large sites and buildings. The health of people in DRC is extremely poor. The vaccination rates are low, infant mortality is high and malaria is endemic.”
“Against the backdrop of DRC’s already fragile health system, this displacement means we are looking at a double crisis. That is why as of today we have activated our emergency response mechanism.”
She added: “Support staff for finance, admin and training, have been moved to Rwanda for the time being. Our senior management team and healthcare staff, however, will remain on the frontline because Merlin is a force for health and reaching people in desperate need is our business.”
Merlin is able to quickly respond to rapidly emerging health needs in North Kivu through a number of funding mechanisms, including the ‘Rapid Response to Population Movements’ (RRMP) programme, administered by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNICEF.
Notes to editors
It is estimated that Merlin currently reaches nearly 900,000 people in North Kivu with healthcare. We have been providing life-saving medical care to those who are fleeing fighting in the north of the country for many years, including treatment and support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Merlin (www.merlin.org.uk) is an international health charity, saving lives in the world’s toughest places. Merlin responds with healthcare when people are overwhelmed by natural disaster, conflict or disease. After the immediate crisis, Merlin stays on to assist recovery – building resilience so that those at risk of future health disasters are better prepared. Merlin is a force for health
We have been in DRC since 1997, providing medical relief in emergencies and working with the Ministry of Health to support and strengthen the entire health system. In Maniema and North Kivu, we have provided a wide range of services including establishing health centres and mobile clinics in the country’s most isolated regions. We provide primary healthcare, treat children for malnutrition, provide thousands of women with family planning services and are supporting and training midwives to tackle maternal mortality.
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