Skip to main content

You are here

Democratic Republic of Congo

Since 1981 Médecins Sans Frontières has been running some of its largest programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where millions of people are displaced due to armed conflict and longstanding crises, as well as outbreaks of disease across the country.

The second largest country in Africa (after Algeria), DRC is rich in natural resources but plagued by conflict.

Until recently, the country has been at the centre of what some observers have called “Africa’s world war”: the five-year conflict saw government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, clash with rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, people in the east of the country remain in fear of death, rape or displacement by marauding militias and the army.

Due to poor access to healthcare, the average life expectancy in DRC is around 58 years. One in 10 Congolese children dies before the age of five.

Response to Epidemics

DRC is prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases, including Ebola, and we support local authorities in the response. We run targeted vaccination campaigns against measles and malaria, and interventions against cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis.
 
Raising awareness through community-based activities is an integral part of our projects.  
 
MSF directly supports local health services and centres. We support the national HIV/AIDS program, which is implemented by the country's health authorities. Our teams work on improving access to screening and treatment, reinforcing treatment adherence, and patient retention. A community-based program manages the distribution of antiretroviral (ARV) medication to stabilised patients. 
Robin Meldrum

Sexual and Reproductive Health 

Sexual violence is a major issue in DRC, affecting men and boys as well as women and girls. We provide medical and psychological support. We also support family planning activities, provide antenatal and postnatal consultations, and treat patients for sexually transmitted diseases. 
 

Emergency and Mobile healthcare 

Emergency response is a core activity for MSF. Several teams are dedicated to monitoring health alerts and deploying a rapid response to outbreaks of violence, population displacement and epidemics across this vast country.
 
With the goal of guaranteeing adequate healthcare, MSF teams distribute relief kits, run mobile clinics, manage health promotion, and organise water and sanitation activities within communities and for displaced people.
MSF teams work in North and South Kivu, Kasai, Ituri and Tanganyika, among other areas. 
 

Speaking out Case Study

Rwandan Refugee Camps in Zaire and Tanzania 1994-1995

Following the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, nearly 2 million ethnic Hutus fled across the border into eastern DRC, as well as Tanzania and Burundi, where they settled in large refugee camps. Humanitarian access to the camps was severely limited, or outright denied; and refugees were subjected to targeted armed attacks by Rwandan and Burundian armies, as well as the AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congoforces.

MSF tried to provide aid to both refugees and local populations caught in the fighting. These teams came face to face with the AFDL’s and the Rwandan army’s bloody methods, which included using humanitarian organisations as a lure to draw refugees out of hiding.

In the years since the atrocity, MSF released a detailed case study, highlighting the dilemmas that emerge from humanitarian involvement in conflict situations. The report outlines the decision for MSF staff to speak out.

Find out more about DRC