(Portland, Ore., Dec 13, 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.