Updates from Africa
United Nations requests MTI expansion of medical services
November 21, 2012
At the request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Medical Teams International expanded medical services at two border posts to provide care to an increasing number of refugees crossing into Uganda from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
In April 2012, the rebel group formed in DR Congo called the M23 began taking territory in eastern Congo. The increased violence associated with the insurgency caused the refugee crisis in Uganda. M23 began moving north, which put them in direct conflict with another rebel group called the Mai Mai.
The violence that accompanies rebel group advances for territorial control results in large movements of people looking for safety and peace. Over the past 5 months, MTI staff and volunteers have been successfully working at Kisoro and Matanda in SW Uganda to provide medical and emotional care to people fortunate enough to make it across the border.
In the past few days, a more dire development has occurred. The M23 have traveled south in an effort to control Goma, the main city in eastern Congo. Goma is protected by the UN with 1500 peacekeepers. However when the M23 began to invade the city, a UN spokesman said “its peacekeepers had held their fire as rebels took the city to avoid triggering a battle, putting civilians at risk.” In response, the government of Uganda closed border crossings in order to ensure Ugandan security.
MTI Uganda staff this morning reported sporadic fighting in Goma after M23 took over part of the city. Today, 170 refugees so far have been received and registered at Kisoro. Many are malnourished; 15 children moderately malnourished and 1 severely malnourished. Travelling by boda boda (motorcycle taxi), 120 people arrived at the border and reported that many more are on the way and may reach Kisoro in two to three days.
There were 17 patients referred to a local hospital today alone. Clinic consultations today were above 200 patients.
Conglese army's attack on M23 forces new influx of refugees
November 16, 2012
The Congolese army is pushing back on the rebel group M23, also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army. The fighting is the most serious since July in eastern DR Congo, according to the BBC.
As a result, over 1000 people fleeing the conflict crossed into Uganda at Matanda, where MTI teams are working.
Nearly 500,000 people have fled their homes since April. Need for care for these people remains high. Teams of volunteer medical teams from MTI will remain in the area for the foreseeable future.
First medical teams arrive in new refugee camp in Uganda
October 19, 2012
This week, a volunteer team originally planning to help at the Nakivale refugee camp was redirected to Kisoro, due to increased need in Kisoro. A team to backfill in Nakivale is preparing to travel this weekend. An additional team will be traveling this weekend to the new Matanda camp that UNHCR requested our assistance in establishing.
The UNHCR and Medical Teams International continue to monitor refugee movements in SW Uganda as war continues in the region.
Debbie Bailey, Disaster Response Coordinator for Medical Teams International, and a staff collegue travel throughout Uganda, assessing the conditions and the work that is underway in refugee camps that are run by Medical Teams International staff and volunteers. Read her blog Debbie Bailey in Uganda.
Expansion in SW Uganda
October 12, 2012
The additional border post in SW Uganda that was requested by the UNHCR on October 2 is already established and operational.
MTI staff in Uganda report that the civil war in DR Congo is escalating. Two powerful rebel groups are both seeking to gain control of more territory in the northern region. Authorities are predicting that up to 50,000 new refugees could soon cross into Uganda, mainly in this new area where the violence is increasing.
The UNHCR has now requested that MTI provide care to refugees at the new transit/reception camp that UNHCR opened at Matanda. In addition, the UNHCR is likely to establish yet another settlement camp in the region since the present ones are now full.
We have assigned four nurses and a midwife to Matanda to support the Ministry of Health staff there. The UNHCR has provided us with a six-month supplemental budget and an additional vehicle for Kisoro. We have requested another vehicle and funds for the next three months for Matanda.
Both the UNHCR and Office of the Prime Minister have requested that Medical Teams International send additional volunteers to Kisoro and Matanda.
MTI-Uganda management have already approached the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration and the US State Department representative in Uganda with a request for assistance in placing an additional 10 volunteers in Uganda.
UNHCR requests expanding support for refugees
October 2, 2012
Today, the UNHCR asked Medical Teams International to support an additional border post in SW Uganda. Though our Uganda field office has already relocated staff to the new site to help with the response, additional volunteer teams are being considered.
MTI staff at the post report that people are crossing the Ishasha River into Uganda. The total number of registered refugees so far at the new post is 2,940. An MTI ambulance was deployed to the operation together with six MTI health staff to be integrated into the existing health center. A large number of refugees continue to cross the Ishasha River and are picked up by trucks and transported to the registration post where we are based. There are a high number of children. Thirty six percent of the refugees are children 5-17 years of age.
Reports from security and intelligence officials indicate that rebel groups are becoming more involved in an insurgency on the DR Congo side of the border. This activity changes the dynamics of the inter-tribal war that has been destabilizing the area, and drives more refugees across the border.
Inter-agency partnerships are helping to curb the spread of cholera in Somalia.
September 20, 2012
There have been cholera outbreaks in Hosingo and Waraq, which are villages
about 85 Km south of Dobley. The cholera problem is substantial and started about 7 weeks ago in these locations and is quickly spreading to other villages. The impact of the outbreak on local communities is devastating. Families lose their loved ones--usually the most productive family members or breadwinners, very young children and infants. This can be very traumatic to local communities and families. More than 50 cases have been identified so far in this region and the death toll has now reached 11.
Generally, the recovery rate has been encouraging, because of the massive efforts shown by the charities who moved in quickly to address the problem. Partner organizations have sent medical supplies and health personal to the affected areas. Partners used long standing working relationships with the communities in which Medical Teams International operates to carry out awareness-raising programs on how to prevent the spread, as well as the need to report early to the hospital when the signs are detected. MTI staff is carrying out house-to-house education on the outbreak. Our partners have provided extra support to peripheral areas to minimize the spread.
Water treatment tablets are being provided to the refugees and distributed throughout the communities until a longer term solution can be developed.
Our partner organizations have participated in the discussions at inter-agency meetings on the outbreak. Partners have has been assigned to form a cholera treatment camp and provide hand washing facilities at the camp. The staff is working hard to provide services, such as teaching the use of oral re-hydration solution,encouraging the community to the uses of other electrolyte solutions, providing environmental and sanitation education and protecting water sources that are used for domestic purposes.
Learn more about our work in Africa.
Nodding Syndrome project successes
August 30, 2012
Since we began caring for children with Nodding Syndrome, we have improved the lives 840 patients and brought awareness and training to thousands of parent, care givers and community leaders. More than 180 Village Health Teams were trained in basic surveillance skills so that they are alert to identifying the new cases and more skilled in managing existing ones.
In the region, 2,000 Nodding Syndrome information packets were distributed that included educational and communications materials. There were 97 care givers trained on caring for patients with Nodding Syndrome. Thirteen community sensitization outreach sessions were conducted that reached more than 1,000 people.
During the project, 340 new patients were identified and treated, along with continued treatment of 500 patients
Restoring health of Congolese refugees
August 15, 2012
An MTI medical team of volunteers at the Nyakabande Health Clinic, at a transit center near Kisoro, continues to treat refugees and locals. On any given day, 50 to 100 patients are treated. Illnesses include respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. The clinic is constantly crowded, but patients are orderly and share benches as they wait for care.
Most patients receive treatment, self-care instructions and reassurance. Infants and children suffering from dehydration are treated with a salty-sweet fluid to replenish the liquids that have been lost. Most skin infections are treated with wound care and medicines.
There are some patients that arrive that are extremely ill and require around-the-clock care. Unfortunately, the field clinic is unable to address their needs. The Kisoro Hospital, however, has been very gracious in accepting these severely ill patients. Though the hospital is quite large, compared to others in the region, it is crowded--filled with patients with a wide variety of diseases and injuries.
The staff at the hospital is attentive and appears to be dedicated. When our teams visit the patients sent from the field clinic, they see improvement.
Another MTI team has concluded its trip through Pader, Ogur and the surrounding region. The team observed children who were previously treated for nodding syndrome a few months ago that are now doing exceptionally well. Though there is still no cure for the illness, the anti-seizure medicines are helping the children return to normal daily routines.
MTI's in-country management and staff report that work must continue and the need for additional teams will exist through the coming months. If you are interested in information on volunteering, please see International Volunteer Opportunities for more information. Your financial support is needed as well, so please help us care for the Congolese refugees with a donation today.
Shipment for DR Congo Departs
July 19, 2012
A 40 foot container was shipped out from our distribution center this morning, headed for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The container was filled with 23 pallets of medicines and medical supplies for refugees in the region.
Partnering agencies, International Medical Corps and International Relief Teams are working with Medical Teams International in distributing the supplies and providing care.
Like DR Congo, neighboring Uganda is also struggling from the pressures of the conflicts in the region. An increasing flood of refugees seeking medical care and escape from conflict are filling transit centres and refugee camps. Dr. Paul Neumann, a Medical Teams International volunteer, is in Uganda and writes about his experience, which is posted in Volunteer stories.
Refugee Camp Situation Worsens
July 17, 2012
New arrivals continue. More than 200 new arrivals are entering the Nyakabande Transit Centre on daily basis with most of these from Ishasa border point in Kanungu District. The total number of refugees currently in the transit center is 14,312 after transporting more than 6,000 to Rwamanja settlement camp during the week.
Shelter at the transit centre remains stretched to the limit. Each tent is housing 15-18 refugees, while the communal shelters are housing 350 people, which is not healthy, according to public health guidelines. Currently there are no disease outbreaks at the transit site nor the surrounding area.
The most common illnesses are upper respiratory tract infection and lower respiratory tract infection (pneumonia). These conditions are due to over congestion in the tents and the extremely cold weather. Many of the refugees lack warm clothes and conditions are worst for children under five years of age. In the last week, three newborns died of the cold weather conditions.
The second most common illness is the acute diarrhea which is due the poor sanitation from overcrowding in the transit centre and the inadequate supply of soap.
Immunizations preventing outbreaks. Feeding of the refugees is being done by World Food Program and the outcry from the refugees is that the amount is in adequate.
Medical Teams International is providing immunization services within the camp and immunizes an average of 100 to 150 children under five per day. To date, 3,732 children under 5 years have been vaccinated, especially against polio and measles, which tend to cause outbreaks in emergency situations.
All children in the camp are screened for malnutrition and given vitamin A supplements, deworming or supplementary feeding.
Last week, one of the buses in a convoy of twenty lost control on the steep corners of Kisoro and injured 22 refugees, mostly women and children, and one child lost his life.
Medical Teams International staff was on location providing first aid and ferrying the critically injured to a hospital which is 78 KM away.
Medical Teams International leads in providing care. MTI remains the lead organization for health and nutrition, including emergency response under UNHCR. Our staff is implementing malnutrition identification and treatment, monitored by UNHCR and OPM. Other operating partners on the ground are WFP, Uganda Police, and MSF.
Key care services offered are primary health care services, immunizations, health education and malnutrition management. With funding from UNHCR and other donors, we managed to upgrade the Nyakabande health center in terms of general renovations, laboratory and medical equipments, medicines and staffing.
The number of outpatients at the health centre has increased from 150 to 200 patients per day, compared to the previous number of 15 to 20 patients per day before we were requested to lead the effort. More than 90% of the patients are refugees and nearly10% are nationals.
Medical Teams International performs emergency referrals of patients to Kisoro Hospital and Motorele Mission Hospital. Additional care services provided include patient follow up, feeding and delivering drugs. Eight staff and a team of volunteers from the United States arrived last night and caused much excitement among the refugees and local care officials. The enthusiastic reception was due, in part, to our ability to provide a higher index of diagnosis, better training of local staff and delivery of the much-needed medical supplies.
The situation is not likely to improve. Looming internal conflict is affecting most parts of Eastern DR Congo. Much as the situation looks a bit calm at the moment, reports coming from across DR Congo is indicating that the Congolese government is planning to launch a counter attack on the rebel position in the areas taken by the rebels. This is not only creating fear among the refugees, but also putting pressure on UNHCR and its partners to try to conduct contingency planning for any eventuality which could happen over the few days and weeks.
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