War Wounds in DRC

"They came during the night. We were sleeping. They entered the house. Then they tied us up. They wanted to kill us in my mother's house. I tried to flee, but because I was bound I fell to the ground, on my stomach. One of the men pointed his gun at my heart. To kill me."

Charles'* face is covered in sweat and his eyes are full of terror. The bullet didn't strike his heart. It passed through his chest and came out of his shoulder. He was admitted in critical condition to Mweso hospital, in North Kivu. The MSF surgical team operated on him and today he is fine.

Charles is one of many civilians who carry wounds from the war in North Kivu. "The majority of the patients admitted for surgery are people who have been wounded due to violence," explains Dr. Jose SANCHEZ, surgeon at Mweso hospital, in Masisi district. "We also have a maternity ward where we perform cesareans. Here we receive both civilians and soldiers. Since the war resumed, we have seen an increase in wounds linked to violence, due to both bullets and knives."

In the month of October, the MSF team in Mweso saw thousands of people fleeing along the road in front of the hospital. Fighting was raging in the areas to the north, right to the edge of Mweso itself. In the operating room, the number of war-wounded patients increased dramatically.

"Last month we performed 60 surgeries, of which around half were for wounds linked to the war, to the violence," adds Dr. Sanchez. "Many were civilians: men, women and children."

Jerome was one of them. This elderly man does not know his precise age: "Somewhere around 70 years." Sitting on one of the surgical ward's mattresses, he holds the stump at the end of his right arm. "It was at night. We were six in the house. Armed men entered and began shooting. That night, there were three deaths. And three wounded. I took a bullet in the forearm. The wound became infected and they had to amputate my right hand."

Mweso hospital is the only reference facility for 40 km in any direction. Dr. Jose Sanchez: "It's important for MSF to be present in the hospital, to support all the hospital services, and in particular to provide quality surgical care."

Charles tries to move his arm, wrapped in a piece of gauze compress. "If by chance I am healed..." he confides, "I hope to return to school. The right hand, the one that writes, wasn't harmed."

In North Kivu, MSF supports seven reference hospitals, in Mweso, Masisi, Goma, Kirotshe, Rutshuru, Kayna and Nyanzale. The organization provides primary and secondary healthcare, notably surgery for war-wounded patients, and cesareans

* Name have been changed.

> Condition: Critical - Voices from the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo