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NW Aid Group Duels Dual Disasters

October 30, 2008

Seattle, WA - This week's earthquakes in Pakistan and rebel attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo have one thing in common: an immediate need for humanitarian aid. Seattle-based Mercy Corps has teams in both places.

In the quake area, where thousands are now homeless, it has set up a medical clinic. And in the Congo, Mercy Corps is providing water and sanitation for people displaced by the fighting, many of whom were already in refugee camps.

Richard Jacquot, Mercy Corps Emergency Program manager, was in the Congo last month, preparing security plans for the Mercy Corps staff in case the fighting escalated.

"You are dealing with a population that is severely undernourished, with very limited access to water, and they are now in a panic mode. It's not a very good prospect. We are talking about 500,000 to 800,000 people who may be moving to Rwanda."

Jaquot just returned from the Congo. He says it will take serious United Nations action and diplomatic efforts to improve the situation, and there's a chance even the aid workers will have to be evacuated. There are only three ways out of the city of Goma, he adds. Two have been blocked by fighting and one requires crossing a lake. According to Jaquot, most of the refugees are heading for Rwanda, where no one is sure how they'll be received.

"If Goma is evacuated, there will be huge need for providing shelter, water, sanitation, food and primary health care to these people who are going to be gathering inside Rwanda."

In Pakistan, the Mercy Corps team says the quake survivors need blankets, warm clothing and tents. The agency will post updates on both crises on its Web site at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA