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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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HEAL Africa Still Working in Conflict Zone 2009

HEAL Africa's HIV program manager, Ndungo Sakoul, recounts his latest experience traveling through heavily armed regions where other humanitarian aid organizations were not allowed to pass.

"As scheduled, I needed to go to Rutshuru to verify how the Choose Life  HIV programs are doing, not only the emergency response, but also our normal programs of awareness, education, income generation for foster families of HIV orphans, and the palliative care networks in addition to the PMTCT workshop, and Safe Motherhood.  We wanted to see if the partners and activists had returned to their homes and neighborhoods after seeking refuge (many were scattered, some to IDP camps, others to relatives in other areas), before re-starting activities.

5 Km from Goma just after the airport is a roadblock commonly called OPRP.  Yesterday all vehicles even NGOs coming from Goma and going north (to Rutshuru, Kayna and towards Butembo) were blocked....even MONUC was blocked by the FARDC from going north on this road.  Today we came to the same roadblock, we from HEAL Africa hospital got permission to go through.  Along the road we saw no one but soldiers, some going toward Goma, others going to Rutshuru.  No civilian vehicles at all but a few humanitarian organsizations. 
The road is full of men in uniform (FARDC, CNDP), and at Kibumba, about 30 km. from Goma, there was a large group of mixed FARDC and CNDP.   Toward Rugari and Katale there were many military from Rwanda (RPF) well armed and dressed and moving toward Rutshuru, with the flag of Rwanda on their epaulettes.  None of the armed men bothered anyone.However, the faces of the population are sober and all are wondering what tomorrow will bring.
At Rutshuru I met with the territorial administrator (CNDP) who told me that even he doesn’t have much information about what is going on; it’s more military than civilian. I have just come from meeting with several members of the Nehemiah Committee, our partners on the ground.  They, too, have difficulty understanding and explaining what’s going on.  They’re just afraid because they don’t know who else to trust with their security—only God.

The banks are still closed.  Our solidarity income-generating groups are not only dispersed by the violence and therefore can’t do their business, but also all banks and micro-finance institutions are closed as well. The schools are functioning normally and according to some people we’ve talked with, 70% of the students have returned to their school benches.  People are still uneasy.

We are 5 on this trip: the teams of PMTCT,  Children’s AIDS program, and public health.  Together we will be training health zone personnel for Rutshuru and Binza, and also to evaluate the status of our emergency project on the status of pregnant women (Safe Motherhood).  We thought we’d see how we can re-launch our normal programs after this now almost 3 month stoppage due to the war.

I ask you to continue to pray for us and for our partners on the ground who are still in a state of psychosis and fear."