Conflict in Congo: Scenes of desperation in hospitals

World Vision is providing supplies to overwhelmed hospitals in the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is working to meet the needs of displaced and vulnerable children and families.

By Chris Huber, World Vision U.S., with reporting from Aimee Manimani.
Published December 6, 2012 at 12:00am PST

Since the recent surge in violence between M23 rebels and government forces in the eastern DRC city of Goma, hospitals in the area have been overwhelmed by an influx of wounded troops and civilians, according to reports.

Hospitals flooded with patients

Medical facilities report hundreds of injuries and dozens of rapes. Residents, especially children, are developing respiratory issues and diarrhea due to unsanitary conditions since fleeing their homes and settling in temporary camps.

Cholera remains a serious risk in the overcrowded camps.

“The lack of equipment is the main challenge in our hospital,” says Dr. John Baeranyi, the lead physician at a Goma health center. “We would like to meet all of the needs of raped women and the wounded, but we do not have enough equipment, not enough supplies.”

Some doctors reported working three days without sleep or adequate resources to care for people, said Aimee Manimani, a World Vision communications manager in DRC. Hospitals treat many patients for free when they have no means to pay. In other cases, penniless patients are refused medical treatment.

“Yesterday, I was forced to sell our food to be able to bring my little brother, who is just 1-and-a-half, to the health center,” says 14-year-old Neema, who lost her father and mother since the clashes erupted in her village in Kibumba in July.

“I had 1,200 francs, which I presented [to] a nurse, begging him to heal my brother.”

Meeting the needs of the displaced

About 130,000 people have been displaced in the past two weeks, adding to the more than 840,000 people displaced this year by the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC.

World Vision has provided seven medical facilities with kits that include items like surgical masks and examination tables. It also distributed clothing for babies and adults, and toys for children.

During the initial response, World Vision provided food to more than 46,500 displaced people in Goma camps and surrounding areas.

“Most families are arriving in Goma with nothing, as all of their belongings have been stolen or abandoned in flight,” says Sarah Carrie, World Vision’s quality assurance manager in eastern DRC.

World Vision plans to open Child-Friendly Spaces, which will give children a safe place to play, learn, and receive counseling. World Vision also plans to provide household kits, including plastic sheets, bedding, cooking pots and pans, and essential household items, for families affected by the violence.

Three ways you can help

Pray for the protection of children and families caught in the conflict crossfire. Thank God for those on the front lines working to meet the health needs of the sick and injured. Pray for the safety of World Vision staff, and pray that World Vision and other organizations would be able to continue serving those in need. Above all, pray for peace.

Make a one-time gift to help assist Congolese children and families impacted by the violence. Your gift will help provide desperately needed food, healthcare, and supplies to Congolese refugees in Rwanda and Uganda, as well as internally displaced Congolese families.

Give monthly to help provide assistance to children affected by war and conflict in places like the DRC. Your monthly support will help World Vision bring critical assistance to the most vulnerable children in areas of conflict through interventions like trauma counseling, safe shelter, nutritious food, clean water, medical care, and more.