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Kivu: a major human tragedy in the making

28-10-1996 News Release 96/33

Geneva (ICRC) - The situation in the Kivu province of Zaire has deteriorated even further. Apart from the actual fighting, excesses resulting from undisciplined behaviour on the part of those bearing weapons, intolerance and terror are giving rise to the worst fears for the Zairian civilian population and the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the area. Now that the humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from South Kivu, there is no way of knowing what is happening to the Zairian civilians and the refugees, who are left without any humanitarian presence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which was forced to suspend its activities in Uvira on 22 October, today withdrew its last two delegates from Bukavu, where they were trying to bring medical aid to the wounded. Security conditions in the town have degenerated to the point where any movement is extremely dangerous. In the last few days several hospitals have been attacked and looted, Red Cross vehicles have been stolen and humanitarian workers harassed.

Near Goma (North Kivu), where seven delegates are still working, the ICRC has managed to distribute emergency aid to some 12,000 Zairians who fled their villages to escape the recent days'fighting. Hospitals in Goma which are treating casualties received medicines and other medical supplies on 27 October. The ICRC also delivered assistance to the dispensary in Mugunga, where more than 150,000 refugees from the Kibumba camp have now arrived.

The ICRC calls once again on all political and military leaders to respect and ensure respect for th e basic and universally recognized rules which protect civilians, the wounded and captured combatants, as well as the staff of humanitarian organizations, the ICRC in particular.