By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (July 16, 2012) – Covenant World Relief is sending aid to long-time partner Medical Teams International (MTI) to help them respond to a growing crisis as 20,000 refugees flee a breakout of violence in the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nearly all of the displaced Congolese are fleeing to Uganda, where refugee camps are being overwhelmed by the influx, according to international relief agencies. In addition to camps already operating, others that were closed in the 1990s have had to be reopened.
Mineral-rich and ethnically divided eastern Congo has long been a flashpoint for violence, but the situation worsened in recent weeks as a group of mutinous Congo Army solders has overrun villages. The rebels support renegade Army General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes.
Medical Teams International has worked for years in Uganda. Among other projects, staff and volunteers operate the only five medical clinics that serve refugees in an area that encompasses 53 square miles, Joe Dicarlo, director of international programs, said.
In January, at the request of the United Nations, MTI also began working in Kisolo, Uganda, where refugees register. At the time, about 200 refugees a day were entering the country. During the past two weeks, as many as 1,500 individuals have crossed the border.
Many of the refugees come with health problems that are not only physical, but also psychological. Women frequently have been the targets of gender-based violence as a means of terrorizing the populace.
The fighting is close to the border. At night, MTI staff at the refugee camp can hear the sounds of shelling in Congo.
Medical Teams has worked closely with Covenant World Relief on projects around the world, including Haiti, Congo, and Libya. In addition to the latest funding, MTI also is considering whether to issue an appeal for physicians and nurses with experience working in the developing world.
A special fund is not being set up, but donors can contribute to the general online CWR Disaster Relief Fund. Covenant World Relief is using money from that account to aid MTI. People wanting to contribute by check can send money to Covenant World Relief, 8303 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL, 60631. Donors are asked to designate funds for disaster relief in Uganda.