(PORTLAND, ORE. - Dec. 9, 2008) This Thursday, two local medical volunteers with Medical Teams International leave for southwestern Uganda where they’ll care for families fleeing the fighting in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr. Tom Martin, a Portland physician, and Anne Blaufus, a nurse from Camas, Wash., are employed at Portland Providence Medical Center. Both volunteers have previously worked in disaster zones throughout the world, including Afghanistan, Liberia, Sri Lanka and Haiti. They will serve a month-long assignment in Uganda.
Martin and Blaufus will carry nearly $15,000 in medical supplies when they arrive, including anti-malarial medicines, cholera medications, antibiotics and surgical supplies. The two medical workers will join staff from the agency’s northern Uganda office to operate a mobile medical brigade near the southwestern border of Uganda—an area now home to more than 40,000 Congolese refugees. Most of those escaping the violence are women and children.
Due to an upsurge in an already violent conflict, an additional quarter million Congolese have fled their homes in the last several months. Aid organizations estimate that nearly 5.4 million people have died in this decade-long conflict, nearly half of them children. Congo’s long-standing conflict, much of it focused on resources and ethnic rivalries, has been called the world’s deadliest dispute since World War II.
“The Congolese are literally running for their lives,” explains Medical Teams International relief expert, Joe DiCarlo, who returned from the Congo earlier this month. “When families arrive in the makeshift shelters, they are exhausted, hungry, sick and afraid. There is a shortage of food, clean water and medicines. Although they survive the harrowing escape, once in the camps, they face deadly diseases like malaria, malnutrition or pneumonia—all preventable if medicines were available.”
Medical Teams International sent more than $560,000 in medical supplies to the country earlier this month. Four medical volunteers—including two physicians from Portland, Ore.—have been working in Congo’s Goma region to bring relief for the displaced.
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.