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Democratic Republic of Congo: MSF staff return to Shamwana after town emptied by fighting

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
6 March 2012 | Congo

PARIS, France, March 6, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Two days after being forced to suspend its operations in Shamwana, in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has returned to the town to continue providing medical care. Fighting between the Mai Mai militia and government forces had led to the entire population fleeing their homes, and obliged MSF to close its health facilities in Shamwana, Katanga province, on 1 March.

“There hasn't been fighting in Shamwana for nearly six years,” says Katrien Coppens, MSF's operational manager for DRC. “When we heard about the battles between the Mai Mai militia and government forces, we were surprised that this was happening in Shamwana, a town that has been secure for so long. Our sick patients were so fearful that they got up and left quickly, which made us doubly concerned for their fate."

The MSF team arrived back in Shamwana to find the town itself still empty of people. Though its medical activities have resumed, MSF remains concerned about deteriorating security in the area, which is hampering its ability to provide continuous medical assistance to the population.

MSF has been in working in Shamwana since May 2006, providing healthcare to people living in the Kiambi, Mitwaba and Kilwa health zones. Teams provide free primary and secondary healthcare, treating malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition, and providing reproductive health services, mental healthcare and emergency surgery. For five years consecutively, MSF has run two 'fistula camps' each year in Shamwana, where skilled MSF surgeons have repaired obstetric fistulas in hundreds of women.

In Katanga province in 2011, MSF provided more than 67,000 medical consultations, assisted at 1,223 deliveries, treated close to 25,000 patients with malaria, vaccinated nearly 600,000 children against measles, and treated 13,746 measles cases in children under five years of age.

MSF has worked in DRC since 1981, providing both basic healthcare and specialised hospital care in health facilities and through mobile clinics throughout the country.

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