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Update No. 98/01 on ICRC activities in the Republic of the Congo

04-05-1998 Operational Update No 98/01

 Situation  

The Forum national pour la reconciliation, l'unité, la democratie et la reconstruction du Congo conferred by D Sassou Nguesso in early January set a three-year period for the country's transition to democracy. In spite of efforts such as this to reinforce stability, the security situation in Brazzaville and the south of the country remains volatile. This is mainly due to the proliferation of arms and, whilst the police are continuing efforts to repossess weapons, they have not yet managed to reach the south where many militias have still not been disarmed nor integrated into the national army. The Angolan armed forces remain present in Brazzaville and the south of the country, notably Pointe Noire, the country's economic hub.

Generally though, the humanitarian situation is showing many signs of improvement and ICRC's emergency food, non-food and medical assistance to health establishments has been phased-out. For this reason, operations will increasingly focus on water and sanitation rehabilitation programmes and dissemination of international humanitarian law. Discussions held with the highest authorities over the last few weeks should lead to agreements on dissemination to the armed forces and visits to prisoners.

 ICRC activities  

 Relief  

Emergency relief programmes and non-food assistance to the conflict-affected popu lation in Brazzaville stopped at the end of March. Relief activities are now targeting specific vulnerable groups (to be identified and assisted through assessments made by the Congolese Red Cross (CRC)). 

 Water and sanitation  

Water-processing and distribution systems in Brazzaville are still fragile following the conflict and considerable efforts are being made to provide the population and health structures with an adequate supply of treated water. Since January, the ICRC has provided the national water board (SNDE) with 750 kg tools and machinery to rehabilitate Djiri and Djoue treatment plants which supply 80% of Brazzaville with some 70 m litres water per day. Over 200 mt chemicals, 16 mt plumbing equipment and substantial logistical support have enabled the plants to function over the last three months. Two new boreholes have been drilled and equipped with hand-pumps for those in southern Brazzaville not served by the existing network.

In response to the cholera outbreak in Pointe Noire, the country's second largest city, the ICRC improved sanitary conditions in Tie-Tie hospital, one of the two establishments where patients with the disease are treated. A 25,000-litre reservoir and two double latrines were constructed. Additional plumbing and repair work there is being supervised. 

 Health  

Working closely with the health authorities, the ICRC provided assistance to Brazzaville's health centres to allow the population access to medical care. Congolese medical staff at the centres de santé intégrés (CSI) went back to work at the end of December 1997 and, between then and the end of March this year, the ICRC provided regular medical supplies to 14 c entres and ad hoc assistance to a further five. In all, 600 kg essential drugs, 16 dressing kits, 14 paediatric kits, seven basis kits, three dispensary kits and medical and therapeutic guidelines were dispatched, allowing an estimated 20,000 consultations to take place.

Now that the general health situation has improved, management of 15 of the 19 CSIs has been handed back to other humanitarian organizations who were responsible for the centres before the conflict. The four remaining CSIs will receive support from Brazzaville's general pharmacy.

Whilst ICRC's emergency measures ceased at the end of March, it is still assisting the rehabilitation of four health centres heavily damaged during the conflict. Assistance has been provided in the form of cleaning material and furniture and the premises have been fully cleaned in collaboration with the CRC.

 A coordinated approach  

Discussions have taken place between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation) and the CRC to ensure a coordinated approach. It has been decided that the ICRC will remain the lead agency within the Movement until the end of July when the situation will be reassessed. Matters related to the institutional development of the CRC will be coordinated by the Federation.

The ICRC delegation in the Republic of the Congo has been independent from the former ICRC regional delegation in Kinshasa since the beginning of February.