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Zaire: ICRC operation gets under way

15-11-1996 News Release 96/36

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today launched an appeal for 49 million Swiss francs (38.5 US dollars) to cover the cost of its operation to protect and assist some of the two million people affected by the conflict in eastern Zaire for three months.

The ICRC has just obtained confirmation from the authorities in Kinshasa that it may work throughout the territory of the Republic of Zaire, although certain formalities remain to be completed. An ICRC-chartered Hercules aircraft left Nairobi this morning with 14 tonnes of high-energy biscuits, two tonnes of medical supplies and 2,000 blankets. It landed in Kinshasa at about 10 a.m. local time before going on to Kisangani, where a team is already setting up a logistics base.

The ICRC delegation in Zaire has drawn up a plan of action to bring desperately needed aid to displaced persons. Existing health facilities in the areas affected by the conflict will receive support, and medical teams will be sent to hospitals in Kivu province and in Kisangani. A field hospital available in Nairobi could very quickly be set up in Zaire. Teams of specialists will make sure that drinking water is available in places where large numbers of refugees and displaced persons have gathered. Should reports of epidemics be confirmed, the ICRC would be able to treat 30,000 people.

The ICRC is in a position to provide non-food relief supplies (blankets, plastic sheeting, jerrycans and soap) for 525,000 people, and food for 250,000 people per month. The aim is not to set up new camps, but to distribute survival r ations and water to displaced people on the move or making their way home. The ICRC is also planning a resettlement programme for displaced Zairians returning to their homes.

The ICRC has officially reminded the parties to the armed conflict that the rules of international humanitarian law are applicable. It has a mandate to protect and assist conflict victims, and will work in close coordination with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is specifically in charge of assistance to refugees. A coordination unit is to be set up, comprising representatives of the main humanitarian organizations and of the multinational force which is about to become operational.