2,000 km from the capital Kinshasa, this region bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi has been a notorious violence flashpoint since 90s.
“The COVID-19 crisis must not make us forget the atrocities which are taking place in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In South Kivu, Rwandan and Burundian armies are battling armed groups in the high plateaus of Minembwe, destroying everything in their wake,” Nobel peace laureate Denis Mukwege said on Tuesday.
The authorities blame the crisis on a political-religious sect called the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO).
The militants are mainly drawn from the Lendu ethnicity, who are mostly farmers and clash repeatedly with the Hema community of traders and herders.
Kivu and Ituri are also affected by Ebola epidemic, which has killed 2,279 people since 2018.
Currently 1,600 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the DRC.
For people of Ituri, “I don’t think that COVID-19 is the prime worry,” said Avra Fiala of Doctors Without Borders. “They have makeshift shelters, sometimes no shelter at all, no showers, not enough toilets.”
“Conflicts do not stop with epidemics,” said Fatima Sator, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“Coronavirus adds to a long list of existing (health) problems — various armed conflicts, other epidemics such as measles, cholera, Ebola, malaria, and very great difficulties for the public to access treatment.”