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U.S. Relief Agencies Have Some Worries About Campaign to Aid Zaire Refugees

November 14, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ As relief agencies gear up to aid refugees in Zaire, some worry that Americans have become hardened to the years of misery in far-off lands while others worry that donors don’t know enough yet of the latest strife.

``It’s going to be real interesting how the American people respond to this emergency,″ said Jack Bode, vice president of International Rescue, a refugee organization founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein. ``There has been signs of weariness.″

But Jacqueline Darien, vice president of development for the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, says Americans have not grown weary of donating, they are merely not well informed.

``The problem in Zaire has not been given as much attention in the United States as it has in Europe,″ Darien said Thursday. ``It has been the lead story on all the newscasts and newspapers for months. They (Europeans) have mobilized quickly, much faster than we have here.″

U.S. corporations are about to be hit with requests for money, food, and medical supplies and equipment.

Officials of International Rescue Committee, Direct Relief International, Americares, among others, said Thursday they are able to move ahead in collecting donations as a result of pledges by the United States and other nations to provide security for relief workers.

The International Rescue Committee planned ads in Friday newspapers, including the New York Times, asking for donations for use by refugees.

Bode said the organization’s chairman, former Goldman, Sachs & Co. senior partner and one-time deputy secretary of state John Whitehead, will likely send letters to several dozen business executives, asking for help.

``They (businessmen) generally donate in spurts,″ Bode said. ``The problem is that they give where they have vested interests. We work in areas where they don’t have a presence. Fortunately we have people and corporations who take a broader view of their corporate responsibilities.″

At Eli Lilly and Co., a spokesman said the drug company would consider donations but has yet to be asked.

``We feel what we have in pharmaceuticals and medicines would make that a good thing to do,″ said Lilly spokesman Fritz Frommeyer at the Indianapolis-based company.

Lilly sent tractor-trailers filled with $60 million in antibiotics and other medicine to Rwanda during the emergency in 1994.

About 1 million Rwandan Hutu refugees have been chased from their camps in eastern Zaire. The combatants include armed Hutus who participated in the slaughter of a half-million Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

According to an official of Refugee International, a fact-finding group based in Washington, aid groups are lagging in their efforts because they have not had access to the refugees because of the fighting. He said the hope now is that the troops will go in quickly and secure the area, allowing the aid already on the ground in Rwanda to reach the refugees.

Once the troops are in place, aid organizations will know a lot more about the situation, he said.

Bode says representatives of his organization were able to enter Zaire last week. He says what they found leads them to believe the problem is worse than what existed in 1994, when fighting in Rwanda first created the refugee problems in the area.

The refugees have pushed their way into central Zaire, where there is little water to sustain them.

Darien says her organization in December will make an emergency appeal to corporations for donations. They also plan to mail material about the tragedy in Central Africa to 340,000 private citizens.

Scott Gordon of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Direct Relief International, says appeals have gone out for corporate donations. And the organization is preparing to ship supplies already on hand to Africa.

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