Tuesday, May 19, 2009

HEAL Africa

The city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been on the periphery of a guerilla war to the north for several years now. After the end of the Rwandan genocide, many of the Hutu perpetrators fled west into Goma, taking advantage of the non-existant government of the eastern Congo. The newly installed Tutsi Rwandan army conducted border raids, and eventually a Tutsi proxy army sprung up in DRC to fight the Hutus. The Congolese army, violent and ill-disciplined, took the side of the hutus. So in a small geographical area, at least four separate military forces vied for control. Through the years, the allegiences have switched back and forth. Like the drugs that fuel the Colombian FARC, valuable minerals (especially coltan) have sustained the violence in eastern DRC.

Located on top of the lava that over-ran the city in 2006 is HEAL Africa, one of the largest and best run hospitals in DRC. The doctors, nurses, and practitioners that provide care here are mostly Congolese, but they come from all over the world. And their expertise is needed here to heal the wounds from the sadistic violence of the war. While the last few months have seen a reduction in violence (with the capture of Laurent Nkunda), the need is as large as ever.

Over the last few years, First Pres Berkeley has sent several teams to the hospital. I've heard so much about the place, and now have finally arrived in Goma to see for myself. I'll be here for a week to work with the on-site building maintanance team to look into power use and water issues. Currently, we're looking into adding a slow-sand filter to clean the rainwater that is used when the city water supply is unavailable (this happens when the power goes out and the city water pumps stop running). If all goes well, a filter could be up and running in a few months.

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