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Update No. 97/01 on ICRC activities related to the Zairian crisis

08-01-1997 Operational Update

On 24 December, a number of serious security incidents occurred in Kindu and Shabunda, mid-way between Kindu and Bukavu, involving threats by armed elements against ICRC staff.  In light of this and the generally volatile military and political situation, the ICRC decided temporarily to withdraw expatriate staff from the region, where it had been working especially in favour of large refugee concentrations located in Shabunda.

At the  time of withdrawal, the ICRC was helping some 60,000 Rwandan and Burundian refugees and 3,000 Zairian displaced in Shabunda by providing food and non-food assistance and basic medical care. The ICRC set up latrines, a water purification plant and a water storage tank.  A centre for unaccompanied children was established  and a Red Cross message service provided. Despite its decision to withdraw from the area for the time being, the ICRC remains extremely concerned about the fate of the populations at Shabunda, who are stranded in the forest without any protection or assistance whatsoever.

The ICRC will therefore be returning to Kindu as soon as possible to hold talks with the authorities and discuss its resumption of activities in the area once the security situation has stabilized. In addition, ways should be found for refugees in Shabunda to move to a location which poses fewer logistical obstacles to the provision of assistance, and from which refugees could return to Rwanda if they wished to do so.

In the meantime, ICRC activities continue in rebel-held areas in north and south Kivu. The ICRC is supporting three hospitals and seven health centres in Goma, and ten centres in the Masisi area, by providing staff and medical supplie s. In Bukavu, one hospital and eight health centres are being assisted. Discussions are ongoing in Uvira as to when and whether to resume activities in the hospital.