Fighting in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Polish nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of Angels in the center of the conflict

Fighting in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Polish nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of Angels in the center of the conflict

Fighting intensifies in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province. In the area affected by the conflict, the mission is led by Polish nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of Angels, who are among a group of five thousand civilians who are trapped. The situation in these areas was discussed on TVN24 BiS by sister Agnieszka Gugała, director of the hospital in Ntamugenda, and Mateusz Gasiński, president of the board of the “Dobra Fabryka” Foundation.

Sister Gugała from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Angels, when asked about the situation of civilians, replied that it was “very dynamic” and that it was impossible to define the needs in detail due to the chaos around them. – There were fights every day. Most of the time people were hiding somewhere in our buildings in the convent, a large part of the village fled to the hospital. Now, unfortunately, we have only seen who died. There are also about 30 people injured – she said.

– We are cut off from the rest of our region. We can’t go buy food and medicine. For now, we have a supply of food for a few days, maybe a little longer with medications. We are awaiting developments as the fighting continues. By noon there was a lot of bombing and shooting, about two or three kilometers from us. There is silence in our region, because we are already under the rule of the incoming rebellion. In the rest of the region there is panic, evacuation, everyone is fleeing, just further north. Those who have nowhere to go have to hide in their homes and wait for what will happen. One thing is certain: we do not know (what will) – she described.

When asked if people from the Congregation were planning to evacuate, Sister Gugała replied that they all came to be with the inhabitants “in difficult and better times”. – Now is also the moment of testing. We have been at war since June, when the first fights took place here, now the front has moved up a bit – she said.

– We’ve been here with refugees for three or four months. We cannot leave them in this situation. We are here primarily to help them, especially when it comes to health care. We now only have two nurses and one laboratory technician who serve five thousand people in the hospital, she described the situation.

Evacuations in the middle of the night. “They ran away from the shots”

When asked again if she and her colleagues had enough medications and dressings, the sister replied that they had the necessary supplies. – But we do not know how long it will take, because no authority tells us what to do, what will happen. Nobody knows anything, so far there is a general panic – admitted.

Speaking about the possible evacuation of the hospital, Sister Gugała assessed that “technically this possibility was cut off”.

– Yesterday and the day before yesterday, I talked with the Red Cross about the evacuation of seriously injured people and pregnant women who are at risk of needing a caesarean section, and we do not have a doctor. This is what we fear the most, that there will be a need for a doctor, and unfortunately none of them are there. Some of the staff evacuated because they were afraid for their lives – she said.

Fighting continues around Ntamugenga. There are about 5,000 civilians in a

What is most urgently missing at the moment? – Medicines, food, material aid, home furnishings – she mentioned.

Sister Gugała, describing in more detail what is happening in this region, said that “during the fights people ran away, catching the child on their back, sometimes they managed to take out the mattress”. – There were often evacuations at four or five in the morning. They ran away from the shots. These are people who have lived in psychological terror for many years. This is not normal. That is why we decided that we are with them – she emphasized.

“This corner of the world has never been peaceful”

Mateusz Gasiński, whose “Dobra Fabryka” Foundation has been supporting the hospital and nutrition center in the region for eight years, talked about the mission of “Dobra Fabryka”. – We support the sisters and finance the hospital’s activities. This corner of the world has never been quiet, it has never been an easy mission, now the situation is very complicated – he said.

– How do we want to react? So far, our support has focused on equipping the hospital well, which for tens of thousands of people within a radius of several dozen kilometers was the only such efficient facility – he noted. – And let us remind you that we are talking about a village in the mountains, under the volcanoes, which we cannot reach with an ordinary car, it must be a four-wheel drive car – he added.

Gasiński (Foundation "Good Factory) about the fighting around Ntamugenga: this corner has never been peaceful

Gasiński (“Dobra Fabryka” Foundation) about the fights around Ntamugenga: this corner has never been calmTVN24 BiS

Gasiński continued that the facility has “well-trained staff, but operating in conditions without electricity”. – We had to do the electricity ourselves. A few years ago, we funded solar panels, because the hospital is not connected to any network, it is a very poor village in the middle of the Congolese bush – he pointed out.

Gasiński made an appeal to alert “wherever possible” for a ceasefire in the region and to enable the evacuation of nearly five thousand civilians.

The Good Factory Foundation recalls that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 77 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, on less than $ 1.90 a day, and that 13.6 million people are deprived of access to safe water sources and proper sanitation .

Who is fighting?

The M23 rebels are responsible for the offensive in the eastern province of North Kivu. The group announced a ceasefire in April, but attacked again on Thursday around military posts in Rutshuru, North Kivu Province. Four civilians were killed then, and 40 – including children – were injured.

An anonymous Reuters source reported that the M23 group captured Ntamugenga, which is a strategic point near the road connecting the city of Butembo with the provincial capital, Goma. 23,000 people fled the village and the nearby town.

Thousands of people have been displaced due to clashes in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (footage from the Kibumba area in May 2022)

Thousands of people have been displaced due to clashes in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (footage from the Kibumba area in May 2022)Reuters Archive

The March 23 movement was launched in the spring of 2012 following the defection of DRC military groups accusing the government in Kinshasa of failing to honor the accord that ended their previous uprising in 2008-2009. Most of the rebels come from the Congolese Tutsi people. The name of the March 23 Movement refers to the date of this agreement.

The eastern provinces of the DRC are strategically important for the country because of their great mineral wealth.

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