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Bainbridge Island Nurse Brings Aid to Refugees in War-ravaged Congo

by Marlene Minor | Dec 05, 2013

(BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA Feb 2, 2009 ) A Bainbridge Island nurse with Medical Teams International leaves tomorrow for eastern Congo, where she’ll care for refugees trying to escape the war-torn region.

Janice O'Connor joins the third volunteer team sent to a Ugandan refugee camp where thousands of Congolese people are seeking medical care, food, clean water and shelter. O’Connor, a nurse at Virginia Mason Medical Center on Bainbridge Island, will be in Uganda for more than a month and will serve with volunteer physician, Dr. Michael Sluss, from Wilsonville, Oregon. They will travel to internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps where more than a quarter million people have fled.

Media: Volunteer Janice O'Connor is available for photos/interviews prior to her 12:45 departure, Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the KLM-Northwest Air ticket counter at Sea-Tac Airport. Please meet her no later than 10:00am so she can clear security.

The decade-long conflict has left 5.4 million people dead in the region. Up to 45,000 people continue to die each month—most of them women and children—from easily treated diseases like malaria, upper respiratory conditions and chronic diarrhea. These diseases run rampant in the camps where 40,000 people live in cramped quarters with scarce water and sanitation. Experts are calling the fighting in Congo the deadliest conflict since World War II.

“We are one of the few agencies helping across the border in Uganda as well as through our partner in the Congo.” says Joe DiCarlo, director of emergency relief at Medical Teams International. “This is the worst man-made disaster I’ve seen in my career in serving people. The health challenges are enormous. We are sending in volunteers as well as mobilizing our Ugandan staff members. These people survived and cared for their own nation after a civil war. There’s no better team to care for these refugees. But they need our prayers and our support to keep medicines and teams flowing in each month.”

O’Connor and Sluss will carry in nearly $15,000 in antibiotics, bandages, anti-malarial medication when they arrive. This past December, Medical Teams International sent more than $560,000 in medical supplies to help families affected by the Congo conflict.

To contribute to the Congo Relief Fund, please visit our secure donation page; call 1-800-959-4325; or mail funds to Medical Teams International, PO Box 10, Portland, OR 97207-0010.