Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) surgeon David Nott returned from Rutshuru, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two weeks ago. In one 24-hour period, two MSF surgical teams treated 75 patients, all victims of gunshot wounds. "It is important to understand that this was 75 people, not just 75 wounds — some of the patients had been shot a number of times. We treated civilians as well as soldiers, including three children under three years old who had been shot in the chest, and a number of pregnant women. The soldiers we were treating, we didn't know whose side they were on. It was a mixture. Obviously, we just treated everyone." Despite the lack of media attention while Nott was there, violence in the Congo was very much at boiling point. "There were several armed groups involved in the fighting in our area, plus bandits and thieves. The whole thing was so mixed up, it was difficult to know who was fighting who." "Every night we stayed in the hospital because it was just too dangerous to get from the hospital to the MSF base. One day, our bags were packed for us while we were at work. In the end, we weren't evacuated that night. We stayed, but our bags remained packed." The scenes Nott saw outside of the hospital were enough to shock even a veteran MSF surgeon. "The worst thing of all was the displaced people. They were poverty-stricken and had nothing. They lived in huts made of banana leaf, erected on mud flats. There was nothing in the huts — they slept on the mud — and it was raining cats and dogs. The situation was intolerable even compared to where I worked in Darfur." So many patients were coming through the hospital doors that David and his team struggled to keep track of where they were coming from. "I had no idea. We treated lots of people at the hospital, but we didn't go round picking them up. To be honest, I didn't have a clue who was coming into the hospital or where they came from. I just treated whatever the problem was. It was so, so busy."
MSF surgeon describes situation in Rutshuru