ISRAELI MEDICAL AID FOR RWANDAN REFUGEES IN ZAIRE
1. On July 22, 1994, the Israeli government decided to send emergency medical aid to the Rwandan refugees. The aid comprises medical personnel and equipment, including an IDF field hospital, flown to Zaire by Israeli Air Force airlift. The relief delegation is headed by Environment Minister Yossi Sarid.
2. It was decided to set up the field hospital in Goma in Zaire, where the UNHCR center and the logistics base of the French force (‘Operation Turqoise’) are located. The number of Rwandan refugees in the area of Goma is estimated at between one and two million.
3. The Israeli representative to the U.N. institutions in Genena maintained regular contact with the civilian-military coordinating team of the UNHCR, from which it received permission for the Israeli operation, and made the necessary landing arrangements in Goma. Parallel to this, the IDF received the necessary permission through international military liaison. The Israeli embassies in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Asmera and Cairo obtained the flyover rights from those countries on the airlift’s course. The Israeli ambassador in Kinshasa obtained the permission of the Zaire authorities for the arrival of the IDF delegation, including uniforms and arms.
4. The Situation Center and the Israeli Foreign Ministry received many calls from citizens and organizations prepared to volunteer for the operation, and to take in or even adopt orphaned children from Rwanda.
5. On July 24, a coordination meeting was held at the Foreign Ministry. The possibility of integrating volunteers from non-governmental organizations, such as Magen David Adom, at a later stage, was raised.
6. On July 25 at 6:00 A.M., the first Israeli plane landed in Goma and was received by the head of the regional Zaire authorities and the Head of Protocol of the Zaire Foreign Ministry. With the help of the UNHCR, locations were found for the hospitalization center as well as for the emergency ambulatory center. The heads of the Israeli delegation later met with the Prime Minister of Zaire.
7. The Israeli delegation comprises about 50 medical staff and an additional 30 auxilliary staff. Eight Hercules planes brought the delegation to Goma (one carrying only water for the use of the delegation itself). This is the largest medical aid mission ever sent abroad by the IDF.
8. The field hospital, once set up, will contain 120 beds. The Israeli team is so organized that it can function independently, without outside assistance. The current supplies are menat to last for two weeks, but will be replenished if necessary.
9. The continuation of the operation will be evaluated at the end of the initial two-week period, taking into consideration the situation in the field. A new team will be sent if conditions warrant it.
10. The Israeli team worked through the night, and the preparation of the field hospital is almost completed. Treatment already began today, July 26. Aside from the local hospital in Goma, the Israeli operating rooms are the only ones in the area.
11. The French organization Medecins Sans Frontieres operating in the area has already asked to coordinate efforts with the Israeli delegation. Environment Minister Sarid will meet this afternoon with the heads of the French unit which is coordinating all French activity in the area, both military and medical.
12. Following is a list of IDF medical aid missions in the past:
– End of 1979 – A small team was sent to Cambodia, where it treated refugees on the Thailand border. The team spent a month and a half there.
– 1986 – A Medical Corps mission was sent to Cameroun to treat those injured in the volcanic eruption there. The 16 member team spent two weeks on the site and treated thousands of people suffering from respiratory problems and chemical burns.
– December 1988 – A medical team went to Armenia following the earthquake there. Some 2,500 people were treated at the Israeli field hospital.
– June 1989 – A team of six persons from the Medical Corps spent ten days in Moscow, treating those injured in the Ural Mountains train accident.
– December 1989 – Medical aid was sent to Romania.
– April 1991 – Medical aid was sent to the Kurds in Turkey.
– August 1992 – Medical aid was sent to Bosnia.