Bendera is a town located 125 km from Kalemie, in the northeast part of Katanga in DRC, at the bottom of a valley towered over by imposing green mountains constantly ringed by clouds; it is one of the cities bordering on South Kivu province. It has gold mines and one of the largest hydroelectric dams owned by SNEL (Société nationale d’électricité en République démocratique du Congo), which supplies electricity to a major portion of the copper-rich province of Katanga.
For more than a month the MSF team has been getting ready to take over the medical operations begun by the MSF emergency unit in Bendera in December following a massive displacement of people arriving in waves from South Kivu since October 2009. This displacement was caused by the military operations launched by the Congolese army (FARDC) to bring peace to the area and secure it against incursions from opposing forces, namely the FDLR (Forces de Libération du Rwanda) and the Mai Mai, a group of Congolese dissidents. The number of internally displaced persons is estimated at over 13,000; these are in addition to the approximately 10,000 permanent inhabitants of Bendera.