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BWAid director underscores needs of refugees in Africa

WASHINGTON (BP)–Of the world’s 21.1 million refugees and displaced people, 6.5 million live in Africa, said Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
At a time when “the eyes of the world have been on the conflict in the Balkans,” Montacute called for “a fresh focus on the needs in Africa” in a June 20 statement endorsing “Africa Refugee Day” June 20 declared by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Many of Africa’s refugees and displaced people “come from or live in countries with active Baptist work, and many of the refugees are Baptist,” Montacute said. “Tanzania is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa and currently has over 500,000 refugees.”
BWAid is among the aid organizations also working in the three countries in Africa with the highest numbers of refugee returnees in 1998, with 235,700 returning to Liberia, 193,800 to Sierra Leone and 62,400 to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Liberia, for example, BWAid is helping the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Education Convention and its relief arm, BARDA, by coordinating the shipment of more than $ 2.6 million in medicines and $265,000 in schoolbooks.
And, although the genocide in Rwanda took place more than five years ago, BWAid is among the aid organizations still working to resettle returning refugees, support the building of schools, seminary and vocational training, and peace and reconciliation work. BWAid has sent more than $135,000 to Rwanda so far this year, including a special project funded from Norway.
“There are many tragic situations that never make a newspaper article or a TV news slot,” Montacute said, “but the urgent need is still there, even though we might not read about it, hear about it or see it.”
Montacute noted, “We have many African BWAid projects that are not funded, and there are many emergency needs that we cannot meet.”
BWAid is based at the BWA’s offices at 6733 Curran Street, McLean, VA, 22101; phone, (703) 790-8980; e-mail, [email protected].