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Update No. 97/6 on ICRC activities related to the Zairian conflict

25-04-1997 Operational Update

 ICRC air bridge for internally displaced continues  

Since 15 April, more than 3,500 Zairian displaced have been flown back from Kisangani to Goma and Bukavu, despite technical problems which grounded two aircraft for two days. For most of the week, a Hercules and a B-727 carried out two to three rotations per day. When the airlift started, priority was given to unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups who require special attention after their five-month journey through the forest. Most of the 150 children who made up the first group of passengers were reunited with their families soon after their arrival in Goma or Bukavu. The remainder are being taken care of by orphanages. Efforts are being made to locate their relatives using the tracing network built up over the past months in cooperation with the Zairian Red Cross.

 The humanitarian situation south of Kisangani  

The ICRC is deeply concerned that for the past week humanitarian organizations, including the Zairian Red Cross and the ICRC, have not been able to reach the refugees scattered along the railway line leading to Ubundu.

 Assistance for returnees under way  

In Kisangani, delegates are working around the clock to prepare an estimated 10,000 remaining internally displaced for their homeward flight. All displaced, most of whom stay in Kisangani town, pass through so-called " site H " . They are grouped according to their area of origin and special attenti on is paid to ensure that family members can travel together. While waiting at site H, which can accommodate around 3,500 people, they are supplied with food. Relief items continue to be brought to Kisangani from Nairobi on regular shuttle flights. Two ICRC nurses are on hand to prepare the injured or sick for the short journey back home. The medical team has accompanied several flights carrying children and other vulnerable groups.

On arrival in Goma or Bukavu, returnees will receive resettlement kits to facilitate their reintegration. Delegates in Uvira continue to distribute food and non-food relief to a steady stream of Zairian refugees and internally displaced returning to Uvira from Kalemie, Fizi and Kigoma (Tanzania). In Goma, Bukavu and Uvira preparations are also being made to ensure that as many as 250,000 returnees have access to safe drinking water and basic medical care.

On 23 April, ICRC delegates flew to Kalemie, south of Uvira, to assess the situation of internally displaced and coordinate their return. Another similar mission is currently being carried out in Lubumbashi, where an ICRC team is establishing contact with the new authorities to be able to continue its humanitarian activities in the provinces of Shaba and Kasai.

In Kivu, routine ICRC tracing, medical and water and sanitation activities continue largely uninterrupted. Tracing delegates are especially busy taking care of unaccompanied children arriving from Kisangani and locating their families in cooperation with the Zairian Red Cross.

 Kinshasa  

As far as possible, the delegation in Kinshasa, with a staff of six expatriates, is maintaining its detention, tracing and medical activities and preparing for a possible emergency situation. As part of these preparations, two delegates are based in Brazzaville, Congo, where emergency sto cks have been stored.