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DRC: Survivors of horrific attacks tell their story
On Monday, 17th August, an MSF team airlifted three survivors of a horrific attack that had occurred five days before in a small village near Bangadi in the Haut Uélé district in north-eastern Congo (DRC). The survivors were all around sixty years old. The total number of villagers who died in the attack is still not known.
All three survivors had very severe wounds, including two open fractures and a closed fracture to the legs, which needed surgery. A medical was waiting for them when they arrived and MSF’s field coordinator Claire Debard, who organised the medical evacuation, listened to their story after treatment.
"I live in a village some 4 kilometres from Bangadi with my wife, our 5 year old daughter and my older brother. The head of our village told us to leave at the beginning of August and move to Bangadi because armed groups were nearby and he couldn’t ensure our safety.
Unfortunately, after a few days in Bangadi, we didn’t have any food left and the situation was getting difficult. That’s why, on Wednesday 12th of August, we decided to go back to our village to get some food.
When we arrived, five armed men took us by surprise. They were accompanied by three hostages, including a woman who was translating what they were saying. They tied our hands and took us into the bush.
The next day, they took my little girl to the village as they wanted to retrieve a chicken and peanuts. They came back without her, they only brought back the rope they had tied her with… she was dead.
Crawling for rescue
They told us they wouldn’t kill us but that we needed to return to the village with them, once we were there they would take our food and beat us.
And this is what they did: they hit our legs, knees and then they ran away into the bush, leaving us there. We spent the night lying on the ground.
On Monday morning, I decided I had to do something and I crawled to the next village, Yamba, some 2km away. I managed to get there. The villagers went to get help in Bangadi.
My wife and I were taken there by bicycle, it was very painful. My brother had to be transported in a stretcher because he couldn’t stay on the bike.“
Region wracked by violence
Since September last year inhabitants of the Haut Uélé district in north-eastern Congo (DRC) have been living in constant fear and are facing a critical situation, trapped in a region wracked by violence.
The conflict between armed forces and the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is estimated to have forced around 250,000 people to flee their homes.
Thousands of people are living in the bush with little food and healthcare and, in most instances, aid organisations are unable to reach them. Even where displaced people have congregated in more secure areas the aid response so far has been insufficient.
Several MSF teams are operating in the region, providing emergency assistance and free medical services, including a project in the town of Dungu.
Activities there include surgery, nutritional care, mental health, support to victims of sexual violence and general healthcare in two health centres. Half of Dungu’s population of 45,000 are people who have been displaced by the violence.