humedica: Help and reconciliation after genocide in Rwanda

humedica: Hilfe und Versöhnung nach Völkermord in Ruanda

by Heike Knauff-Oliver,  2019/04/09

"A deep sadness has settled over the country like a veil of mist." reported the practitioner Christine Siebald (Mainz, Germany) after taking part in the intervention in Rwanda.

25 years ago in summer, humedica has already been able to save many lives by sending over 100 tons of medical materials and food. Approximately three million people had then fled the bloody civil war in Rwanda, which had caused massive shortages in the border cities Goma and Buka. humedica employees, who estimated the situation on site by the end July 1994, reported about desperate conditions: chaos, incredible suffering, sick and mutilated people, mass mortality and thousands of fatalities.

The genocide in Rwanda had caused this horrible situation, which had started the 6th of April 1994 after a long history of agitation and hate. A longstanding conflict between the Rwandan government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had preceded the dreadful killings, the horrendous acts of violence had cost the lives of nearly a million people. In the course of only three months members of the Hutu majority und militia had killed about 75 per cent of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda. They had also attacked peaceful Hutus, who did not participate in the genocide or turned against it. Hundreds of thousands had fled to the neighbouring country Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of Kongo).

Since this time humedica teams set off to Rwanda once and again. They brought medical help to needy people in prisons and remote villages on adventurous routes. They treated thousands of patients in a country, which was home to hundreds of thousands of injured and traumatized inhabitants. They were not able to help all the people, but they were able to alleviate the dire hardship of many of them. Many diseases were related to the difficult, often unhygienic living conditions: gastrointestinal infections, helminthic and fungal diseases, infections of the respiratory tracts, Tuberculosis, Aids, Malaria, rheumatic illnesses and of course carious and rotten teeth.

Some people survived marked by cruel injuries, others, who had lost all members of their families, were left with a child born out of rape. The jails of the country were hopelessly overcrowded. Usually each prison housed 1.000 inmates, but then they had to accommodate more than 13.000. "They were kept like rabbits in small cages under tent roofs. Food and drugs had to be provided by their families.", reported Dr. Siebald, who was deeply concerned about the situation.

"They were kept like rabbits in small cages under tent roofs. Food and drugs had to be provided by their families.", Dr. Siebald told us.

The humedica intervention teams had to work in the tense atmosphere of coexisting victims and perpetrators. Together with the local victim association they assisted the first steps on an extremely difficult way to reconciliation. One team member reported: "We have seen the first tentative steps of people, whose faith enabled them to listen to appeals to their forgiveness and to give culprits a chance to change."

The genocide in Rwanda will most probably never fall into oblivion. But by now the reconciliation process is imposed by the government. The development of the country is exemplary and the miniature state has become a flagship country of Central Africa. Since 2002 humedica has not operated on site in Rwanda. But against the background of the Christian conviction of conciliation this engagement has become an ongoing task for our relief aid organization. Since that time, two up to three medical interventions teams each year take care of prisoners, their families and in particular of their children worldwide. This way humedica was able to help thousands of people and to give them new hope.

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