DR Congo hospital overcrowded with victims of armed conflicts

By XINHUA

Challenges and deep concerns are growing in the General Reference Hospital in Beni, northeastern the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), overcrowded with victims of armed conflicts carried out by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Injured civilians, mostly women who have barely survived gunshots and machete wounds, have been pouring into the General Reference Hospital.

The majority of the patients, some with multiple bullet holes on their body, come from surrounding villages and towns in the Beni region, worst affected across the central African country by ADF rebels’ atrocity.

Kambale Ushindi, a 21-year-old young man hospitalised since January, was struck by two bullets, one in the foot and the other in the neck, in an ambush by ADF rebels on his ride to Ituri, a neighboring province where the rebels make aggressive and undiscriminating moves against the defenseless.

Not all passengers on aboard were lucky enough to escape by the skin of their teeth.

“I went to pick up a family member whose vehicle was ambushed a few hours before leaving for Ituri province. I was shot by two bullets, while I was trying to escape from the same ambush”, he recalled.

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Next to Kambale’s bed, another wounded man, whose right hand was amputated by the rebels during the attack last December in his village of Oicha, a town not far from the city of Beni.

During the attack, Patrick Mbusa also lost three family members, including his wife. “We were surprised by the attack in the middle of the night in our village.

The rebels fired several shots and started massacring other people with machete,” said 41-year-old, who managed to crawl his away out despite his injuries.

“Our vehicle fell into the ambush of the ADF rebels on the road to the city of Komanda, on the border with the province of Ituri. Our vehicle was burned a few minutes after the driver was shot dead,” testified Justin Paluku, another injured person who has already spent a few weeks under treatment. Paluku was shot at the foot while hiding in the bush.

With rising number of brutal attacks by the rebels, in particular a suicide bombing in the middle of Christmas celebration last December at Beni’s downtown, the hospital is facing unprecedented pressures due to flooding and overcrowding of the patients seeking treatment and refuge.

Makeshift tents have been set up at the bare ground of the hospital’s yard by the International Committee of the Red Cross, to accommodate more patients.

Frederico Silvio Martoglio, emergency manager of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beni, told Xinhua that the recently increasing attacks by ADF rebels lead to overcrowding, putting the hospital under a great deal of pressure.

The rise of atrocity also comes at the time when the DRC’s armed forces (FARDC) jointly launched operations with Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) since late November 2021, against several ADF rebel bases, mostly hidden in the Beni forest. Since the start of joint military operations in Beni territory, several ADF rebel bases have been demolished, with hundreds of rebels neutralised or captured, according to the two armies. In January 2022, the UPDF announced a second phase of the joint operation, and began deploying the Ugandan soldiers to the battlefield in the Ituri province, further advancing on the ADF rebels, which is suspected to be an affiliate of the Islamic State.

Active in this northeastern part of the country for decades, the ADF rebels have multiplied the attacks against civilians, despite the state of siege declared by the Congolese government in two northeastern provinces since last May, which has prompted the DRC to authorise the UPDF on its soil to bring the atrocity to an end. In an interview given exclusively to Xinhua during the launch of the joint operations last December, General Muhanga Kayanja of UPDF has stated his determination to destroy “once and for all” the rebels of the ADF, a nightmare for the African Great Lakes region.

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