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U.N. Refugee Agency, Medical Teams International Partner to Care for Congolese Refugees

by Barbara Agnew | Dec 05, 2013

(PORTLAND, ORE. - Dec. 17, 2008) Today, U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, appointed Medical Teams International to deliver critically needed medical care in a Ugandan refugee camp. The camp is now home to 26,000 Congolese who have fled ongoing violence in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two volunteers with Medical Teams International—Dr. Tom Martin of Portland, Ore., and volunteer nurse Anne Blaufus of Camas, Wash.—will begin working in the camp tomorrow. A third volunteer, physical therapist Kathi McCoy, also of Portland, departs Christmas Day for the makeshift camp where medicines, clean water and adequate sanitation are in short supply.

The three volunteers will join Medical Teams International’s northern Uganda staff to operate a mobile medical brigade. Easily treated conditions such as malaria, chronic dysentery, and upper respiratory diseases reportedly are killing more than 45,000 Congolese people each month—most of them women, children and the elderly.

“Our volunteers are the only medical workers for 26,000 hurting people,” says Joe DiCarlo, director of emergency relief for Medical Teams International. “Women have been raped, children have seen atrocities no child should see, and the Congolese are still without safety or shelter. It is urgent that we help now. Our volunteers and medicines mean the difference between life and death.”

Since August, an additional quarter million Congolese have fled their homes in response to ongoing violence between government troops and rebel groups. Aid organizations estimate that nearly 5.4 million people have died and more than 1 million are currently displaced by this decade-long conflict. Congo’s ongoing war is one of the most under-reported humanitarian crises of our time and estimated to rival WWII in its death toll.

Medical Teams International sent more than $560,000 in medical supplies to the country earlier this month, now being used by in-country partners and volunteers on the scene. Four medical volunteers—including two physicians from Portland, Ore.—recently returned from working in Congo’s Goma region, bringing relief to families displaced by the violence.

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.