With the war in the Khmer Republic at a new peak, a new wave of refugees has begun to flood national and international aid agencies.
With the war in the Khmer Republic at a new peak, a new wave of refugees has begun to flood national and international aid agencies. Red Cross facilities have been taxed heavily. Almost all its work is now concentrated on assisting refugees. The aid is in three forms: medical, food, and housing.
At Svey Riang, 95 miles (120 kms) from Phnom Penh, a major Red Cross relief operation is underway. The town has a population of 130,000 -- and 30,000 of them are refugees. All have been living under siege conditions for more than a year, as only aircraft can penetrate the 3-mile (5 kms) security radius.
A socio-medical team from the Belgian Red Cross -- including surgeon, tropical doctor, technician and an administrator -- has been working in Svey Riang for the past three months. When they arrived they were confronted by an abandoned hospital. It had not been used for three years, but basic installations were still sound. With assistance from local medical personnel, the team was able to put the hospital into working order and re-open it almost immediately.
The hospital's operating theatre is now in constant use. So are five dispensaries, where consultations are held three days a week.
In each of the refugee camps, Red Cross personnel organise food distribution. Free milk is dispensed in pint mugs, and recipients are mainly children and old people. Other food items on the Red Cross menu include rice, dried fish and salt.
Provisional housing is also arranged for the scores of refugees who arrive daily. One camp sprang up in three weeks -- and at the end of that time had a population approaching two thousand.
SYNOPSIS: The town of Svey Riang in the Khmer Republic is 95 miles from the capital, Phnom Penh, and an important link in the chain of Red Cross aid centres across the country. With a new peak in the war, there has been a new wave of refugees -- 30,000 of them have flooded into camps at Svey Riang alone. Many are children, so milk is an important aid requirement. At the camps, Red Cross personnel distribute the milk in point pots.
Apart from children, the camps accommodate mainly women and old people, who survive solely on relief food supplies of rice, dried fish and salt.
The Red Cross also provides medical services for the war victims. Consultations are held three days a week at the five dispensaries in the town.
The hospital is run by a Red Cross team from Belgium. Its staff include a surgeon, tropical decker, a technician and an administrator, and it serves a total population of 130,000.
When the team arrived three months ago, the hospital had been closed for three years. However, it was basically sound and, with local assistance, was back in working order almost immediately. The operating theatre was one of the prime targets for renovation. Conditions are still difficult, but the theatre is in constant use, repairing some of the war's human damage.