DR Congo

Catastrophic crisis looms in Congo says Oregon aid expert

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Medical Teams International director of emergency relief calls for urgent aid

(PORTLAND, ORE.-Nov. 21, 2008) All the signs for a looming, catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Congo are on the horizon, says Joe DiCarlo, emergency relief director for Medical Teams International.

"We could see more and more death as people lack access to health care and shelter," says DiCarlo. "The clock is ticking unless there is direct intervention to save their lives. Cholera is also a huge threat. Six have died this week....three yesterday."

DiCarlo spoke this morning from Goma, the eastern Congo's regional capital, where he's been working since Nov. 12. Today, he met with Medical Teams International medical volunteers who just arrived in the country.

The four team members-including Dr. Bob Gibson and Dr. Steve Boyer, both of Portland, Ore. -will begin working immediately in a clinic near Goma that serves 25,000 patients. One doctor and one nurse currently staff the facility. Patients arrive daily, as terrified Congolese-many of them women and children-flee the fighting in their villages.

The fighting also is taking a toll on the psychological health of the people. "A generation of children thinks it's kill or be killed just to survive in this world," he adds.

Medical Teams International is working with partners, HEAL Africa and Food for the Hungry, to provide care for people in a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Goma-often where help is not getting through.  Donated medicines, valued at more than $500,000, are being air-shipped from Holland to Rwanda where they will trucked across the Congolese border into Goma. The antibiotics, cholera and malaria medications, and bandages will care for 10,000 people for three months.

Health workers from Medical Teams International's Uganda office also will assist some 200,000 people currently amassing along the Congolese/Ugandan border. Ugandan staff have spent the past four years providing medical care to displaced families in northern Uganda. Now, they will offer the same lifesaving medical care to Congolese refugees.

DiCarlo says even if people act now, the threats Congolese families face could take a year-long response to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

To contribute to the Congo Relief Fund, please visit our secure Web site, http://www.medicalteams.org
call 1-800-959-4325; or mail funds to Medical Teams International, PO Box 10, Portland, OR 97207-0010.