Deeds as a sign of charity
The civil war is still smouldering in the Democratic Republic of Congo although it was officially ended in 2003. Its consequences, such as more than two million internally displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of returnees, provoked one of the most severe humanitarian crises of our times.
The armed conflict between governmental troops and the militia of the political-military rebel army M 23, which flared up again in April last year, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and seek shelter in other areas such as the neighbour country of Uganda.
Altogether, in the year 2012, more than 55.000 new refugees crossed the border to Uganda – the majority of them via the towns of Kisoro and Kanungu, where they were received at first in transit camps and later in permanent camps. In June 2012, the transit camp of Nyakabande, originally set up for 1.000 people, was overcrowded, at times with up to 9.000 people. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), about 7.000 of them arrived in one single night.
Given the overcrowded camp, due to the lack of staff and supplies, as well as the poor health status of the newly-arrived refugees, the Ugandan Red Cross officially asked the neighbouring hospital of St. Francis for help. The hospital has been a humedica partner organisation for many years and forwarded this call for help to the humedica headquarters. In consequence, several relief efforts were planned there and carried out for the benefit of thousands of people in need through no fault of their own.
On July 12th, humedica began with the implementation of urgently needed relief efforts for the refugees in the reception camp of Nyakabande. While, at the beginning, a team of coordinators provided medical care in cooperation with local employees of the St. Francis hospital, volunteers from Germany joined the team only a few days later.
By the end of December, seven German and international medical teams comprising 14 humedica volunteers had worked in Uganda and provided basic medical care almost without interruption.
First, they worked in Nyakabande only. Later, when this was requested by UNHCR and local authorities, they worked at a little health post in the border town of Bunagana, right on the border between the DR of Congo and Uganda, which is run by both countries. At times, local staff was employed and paid on a daily basis.
Due to its location, those who came to the treatment centre were mainly non-registered refugees. After the head of the health post had become pregnant, the staff was no longer able to operate independently. humedica supported the remaining staff by sending out volunteers and supplying the health post with medication and medical supplies.
Medical treatment was offered the whole day long on week days as well as on Saturday mornings. Altogether, the humedica team attended to 7.298 patients at the two health posts on the border and in the refugee camp itself.
Further training for local medical staff
In order to train the local staff in the areas of hygiene and sanitary efforts, humedica initiated four trainings and carried them out in cooperation with the experienced local staff of the St. Francis hospital. The participants of the training were helpers of the Ugandan Red Cross who are involved in hygiene and health education in the camp of Nyakabande.
In total, 55 volunteers took part in the further trainings in August and December of last year. The focus of the first two workshops was laid on hygiene and sanitary measures, psychological counselling and trauma support. At the later trainings, the topics of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, sexual violence and first aid were added to the programme.
Apart from paying the trainer, it is common in Uganda to take care of the transport and lunch of the training participants as well so that humedica had the opportunity both to transfer medical expertise and organise a lunch for the participants.
Distribution of relief supplies in Nyakabande
Apart from the provision of medical care and training, humedica noticed that there was a great need for certain relief goods which were still lacking in the refugees’ everyday life. In cooperation with UNHCR and the Ugandan Red Cross, the choice of relief goods was decided and the supplies were purchased locally and distributed among the refugees in the transit camp.
humedica purchased 12.000 blankets and 2.000 buckets with a capacity of 20 litres each. Helpers of the Ugandan Red Cross and the UNHCR were in charge of the distributions in the camp, which were carried out in several stages. The beneficiaries received a determined number of blankets depending on their family size. Furthermore, humedica also provided the partner hospital with the warming blankets as well as 30 local security employees.
The buckets were distributed per group tents. In the first months of the relief efforts, these were medium-sized tents housing between 15 and 18 persons. One to two buckets were distributed per tent. Due to the weather conditions and the fact that these tents were often taken down and the material transported away by refugees, the medium-sized tents were soon replaced by much bigger group tents.
Now the tents, which are separate for men, women and children, house several hundreds of people. Up to 20 buckets were distributed per tent and are now used as a common good. This is not a life-saving measure, but still means a significant improvement of the refugees’ living conditions.
One of our volunteer staff members, Dr. Léon Gallez describes his experiences in Uganda as a “summer in mourning”. In mourning because of the moody and invisible monster of war that causes so much suffering to human beings.
Through the relief efforts, humedica has been able to alleviate suffering for a part of the war victims at least for a certain time and assist them with their new existence they have to face as refugees. Heartfelt thanks that you made this possible with your donation.
Thank you very much!
Apart from your donation, these efforts have been possible thanks to the support of the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany. Furthermore, we owe great thanks to St. Francis Hospital, UNHCR and our partner organisation Medical Teams International (MTI) as well as the Ugandan Red Cross.