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Phone calls and nets comfort DRC refugees

February 10, 2009

Imagine being forced from your home with little more than the clothes on your back. Your refuge may be hundreds of miles away through difficult and dangerous terrain.

After a recent surge in armed conflict, this has become reality for the over 60,000  people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), thousands of whom now live in crowded refugee camps in neighboring Uganda.  Frequently they are separated from loved ones with no knowledge of how friends or family have fared.  And as the rainy season looms on the horizon, so too does the threat of deadly diseases like cholera and malaria - the leading killer of refugees in Africa.

We are helping to meet these needs by partnering with UN agencies and individuals responding to the crisis. To protect refugees from the spread of malaria, we are working with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to provide over 275,000 life-saving bed nets to cover refugees in East Africa. Most of these nets have been donated by individuals through our Nothing But Nets campaign, which for just $10 enables individuals to send anti-malarial bed nets to Africa.

And to reconnect refugees with loved ones from whom they were separated while fleeing the conflict in DRC, we are working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and a non-profit group Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF). With funding from our Technology Partnership (link to page), these groups are reestablishing communications and reconnecting communities from the heart of the conflict zone.

With our support, WFP, in addition to delivering vital food aid, provides emergency communications to ensure no humanitarian aid worker is left unconnected. And In camps without phones or even electricity, we help supply satellite-based telephone calls that enable Congolese refugees to contact their family and loved ones. For refugees who have lost everything, a three-minute phone call can be all it takes to provide peace of mind and a piece of hope. 

Interested in knowing or doing more? Check out our deployment map to see the latest places we've visited in response to disaster or crisis, or donate $10 to help the Nothing But Nets campaign send a net and save a life.