JDC Persists with Relief Amid New Violence in Rwanda

In response to the ongoing civil violence in Rwanda, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is continuing the humanitarian presence it initiated in that troubled area of the world last year.

In the latest violence to erupt in the region, the Rwandan government carried out some 2,000 ethnic killings at a refugee camp over the weekend.

The JDC, which is heading a coalition of 39 Jewish organizations that came together last year for relief efforts in the area, is continuing its ongoing programs as well as implementing new forms of aid, said Gideon Taylor, JDC’s assistant executive vice president.

A medical team of one doctor and two nurses, all of whom are from Ethiopia, have been sent from Goma, Zaire, where they were assisting refugee close to the Rwandan border, to inside Rwanda, Taylor said Tuesday.

He said the team works in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and has been called in with other staff to treat the wounded in the Kibeho refugee enclave in southwest Rwanda, where the latest violence occurred.

In addition, the nurses are working near Kibeho, in Butare, treating hundreds of people each day, well past midnight, Taylor said.

The JDC-led coalition has been supplying medical and other humanitarian relief aid to the region since July 1994, the height of the civil war that erupted in Rwanda between the Hutu and the Tutsi.

After the Hutu launched a campaign of genocide in Rwanda, killing about 500,000 mostly Tutsis, Tutsi forces prevailed, forcing some 2 million Hutu, fearful of retribution, into refugee camps in Zaire.

As a result of the ethnic turmoil, the refugee population has been in need of medical attention. Many children have become orphans.

Taylor said part of JDC’s efforts involve organizing a program to train people working with orphans to deal with trauma. The Rwandan government is supportive of the project, which will bring a team from Israel to supply the training for the program, Taylor said.

“The government feels that the experience the Jews have had is partially important in helping in the massacres,” Taylor said, referring specifically to the Holocaust experience.

Taylor also said the JDC already is providing assistance to an orphanage in Kibongo, Rwanda.

Meanwhile, Israel has offered emergency aid to help the refugees caught in the conflict. Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin met with officials this week from the military, health field, government and international Jewish aid groups to discuss what kind of assistance would be appropriate. A delegation will be going to Rwanda to assess the situation, he said.

“I believe that none of us can be indifferent to [the violence] and just watch it on television,” he told Israel Television.

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