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Update No. 97/02 on ICRC activities related to the Zairian crisis

19-02-1997 Operational Update

In late December the ICRC decided to withdraw temporarily from Kindu and Shabunda, eastern Zaire, due to poor security conditions. Over the past few weeks, however, the ICRC has been able to resume and expand its activities in both government and rebel-held areas of Zaire. As the fighting  spreads over ever larger areas, humanitarian needs among populations caught in conflict areas are rising. It is thus becoming increasingly important for humanitarian assistance to be provided in spite of volatile security conditions.

Immediately after Monday's airstrike on Bukavu, situated in the rebel-held area, ICRC vehicles evacuated 37 wounded to the nearest hospitals. Members of the Zairian Red Cross provided first aid on the spot. Vital ICRC assistance for health structures in the Bukavu area continues to be provided. Delegates are  concerned about the condition of some 55,000 refugees who are reported to be in Kingulube, near Bukavu,
and to whom the ICRC has not yet been given access. However, in a positive development for protection in rebel-held areas, rebel leaders responded positively to ICRC requests for access to detainees.

As part of the ICRC's efforts to step up humanitarian assistance in the conflict area, an ICRC-chartered DC-3 will be sent to Lubumbashi, from where it is planned to be used for humanitarian activities on the government side of the frontline. Furthermore, a coordination meeting with local authorities and other humanitarian organizations on assistance to war victims took place on 18 February in Kindu.

The ICRC subdelegation in Lubumbashi has already assisted some of the internally displaced Zairians in Kasumbalesa reported to be arriving from the Kalemie area on foot and by boat. A delegate is currently assessing the situation along the southern Zairian shores of Lake Tanganyika.

On 10 February the Uvira subdelegation was reopened, which has a permanent expatriate staff of three. In general, therefore, apart from potential conflict-related security problems, the ICRC currently enjoys acceptable working conditions in Zaire and plans to extend its activities further to bring assistance to the most vulnerable victims of the conflict.