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ICRC activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

03-09-2001 Operational Update

   

 Executive summary  

  • Since the beginning of the year the ICRC has reoriented and extended its field operations throughout the country, carrying out numerous missions to assess the humanitarian situation of vulnerable people living close to the disengagement zone, mainly in Katanga, Equateur, Kasai Oriental and Kasai Occidental provinces.

  • The ICRC continues to focus on providing a rapid response to vulnerable populations affected by the conflict, offering the appropriate assistance (non-food or agricultural assistance, water and sanitation or medical support) to help local populations towards recovering their self-sufficiency.

  • While the 2001 budget for DRC was set at SFR 55,5 million - the largest ICRC operation in Africa - the overall expenditure for 2001 is estimated at SFR 37,1 million (22,2 million US dollars / 24,5 million Euros). The ICRC urgently requests donors to contribute towards the outstanding requirement - as against the estimated expenditure - of SFR 19,5 million (11,7 million US dollars / 12,9 million Euros).

   

    

 General situation  

    

Since the assassination of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila on 16 January and the nomination of his son Joseph Kabila as his successor, political moves and military developments continue to give ground to cautious optimism for a peaceful settlement to the three-year internationalised armed conflict.

The Lusaka peace process has recently taken several significant steps forward. The ceasefire continues to hold along the length of the disengagement zone and all belligerent parties seem to have now pulled back in accordance with the Kampala and Harare protocols. In June, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1355, extending the UN's mandate by 12 months and allowing the deployment of some 5,000 observers and troops (in charge of protecting the observers) as a prelude to talks to try to reach a final settlement. In parallel, following a preparatory meeting for the proposed inter-Congolese dialogue on the political future of the DRC held in Botswana in August, plans are advancing and a meeting has been scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa in mid-October.

While the ceasefire to the internationalised armed conflict holds, since the middle of May, the situation in the eastern provinces has deteriorated. Interhamwe and ex-Rwandan Armed Forces armed groups moving back to Rwanda through North and South Kivu have clashed with Rwandan armed forces in both provinces. In the south localised movements and clashes have rendered the situation there equally tense. Presently the ICRC considers the situation in areas of North Kivu and South Kivu (i.e. the region south of Uvira towards Makobola, Ubwaria and Fizi) to be off-limits, while the Ruzizi plain in South Kivu remains accessible.

In April, six ICRC staff members were assassinated in Ituri province, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The members of the ICRC team, who were travelling in two vehicles marked with the red cross emblem, were on an assignment to bring assistance to the region when they were killed by unidentified assailants.

 
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 Humanitarian situation  

In 2001, in areas where the ICRC has had access (Maniema, North Katanga, Kasai Oriental, Kasai Occidental, Province Orientale, North and South-Kivu and Equateur provinces), recent evaluations confirm that malnutrition is not widespread and that the availability of food, with a few rare exceptions, is not a problem for most of the population. Despite the positive impact of the ceasefire to the internationalised conflict on the humanitarian situation, for many people in the DRC life remains as difficult as ever. The main problems for those in the interior are linked to the lack of trade which leads to a complete decapitalization in most regions. With communication networks almost non-existent and certain areas cut off from local markets, c ertain products, such as soap, cooking items, and clothing are particularly scarce and expensive. Evaluations carried out in areas such as Nyunzu, Kabalo, Manono and Kongolo in northern Katanga have showed that after several years of war and isolation, local populations now with increased access to the fields and able to once again start agricultural production, are in need of support. Generally there are also problems of serious chronic lack of basic infrastructure (roads, electricity, water networks, medical facilities, etc.) which needs to be repaired or replaced. Returnees (displaced or refugees) also face similar problems, as most had their properties looted before, during and after the events which led to their flight.

Nyunzu, a town of 13,500 inhabitants in northern Katanga, is one of these rare exceptions which illustrates the kind of problems which can be encountered. Cut off from the world due to repeated attacks by militia groups in the surrounding area last year, the poor security situation had prevented the inhabitants from cultivating their fields and had put an end to regular trade with neighbouring towns. As a result, many people were suffering from malnutrition. Over a period of slightly more than two months, the ICRC flew in 320 tonnes of food and other relief supplies in two phases to some 13,500 people. The nutritional status of the residents has since improved. Developments in the conflict have allowed the people living in the area to cultivate more land and thus to avoid being completely dependent on humanitarian aid.

The withdrawal of troops and creation of a disengagement zone have also led to particular problems for a number of local communities. Small movements of civilians away from this " no-man's zone " out of fear of the activities of other armed groups in the newly vacant area have been reported.

Now that the ceasefire to the internationalised conflict holds, the number of war-wound ed has decreased significantly over the last few months. A total of 135 new cases have been registered at the eight main centres in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi treating the war-wounded since February, in addition another hundred are already receiving treatment. Very few injured soldiers continue to arrive from the front at the reference hospitals and most of those in hospital are in need of rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the situation in the eastern provinces is still worrying, where there are an average of 60 new war-wounded cases registered in ICRC-assisted structures each month due to the deteriorating situation described earlier.

 
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 ICRC response  

Since the beginning of the year the ICRC has reoriented and extended its field operations throughout the country, carrying out numerous field missions to assess the humanitarian situation of vulnerable people living close to the disengagement zone (see map on cover page), mainly in Katanga, Equateur, Kasai Oriental and Kasai Occidental provinces.

The ICRC continues to focus on providing a rapid response to vulnerable populations affected by the conflict, offering the appropriate assistance (non-food or agricultural assistance, water and sanitation or medical support) to help local populations towards recovering their self-sufficiency.

To cover its protection and assistance activities countrywide the ICRC current ly maintains a delegation in Kinshasa, a mission in Goma, sub-delegations in Kisangani, Bukavu and Lubumbashi, and offices in Uvira, Mbandaka, Mbuji-Mayi and Kalemie. The ICRC has a total of 45 expatriate and 560 locally hired staff in DRC. Following the tragic events in Ituri district in April, operations in the eastern regions have been reevaluated and activities in a large part of Province Orientale and Equateur province have been temporarily suspended and the sub-delegation in Bunia has been closed. Elsewhere, the movements of Interhamwe in North and South Kivu have recently forced the ICRC to suspend its work in these parts of the provinces. The difficult, unpredictable security conditions in eastern regions need to be constantly reassessed in order to guarantee the safety of teams working in the field.

The shear size of the DRC and problems of access to certain towns and villages means that for every evaluation mission and assistance operation the ICRC faces huge logistical constraints and financial costs to carry out its field work. Evaluation teams travelling to the interior very often have to use a combination of plane, train, truck, car or boat to reach some of the more far-flung parts.

    

 
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 ICRC activities in 2001:  

   

    

 PROTECTION  

   

People deprived of freedom

    

  • The ICRC closely monitors individuals deprived of freedom who are protected by the Third or Fourth Geneva Conventions; the ICRC continues to visit the three remaining prisoners of war to monitor their general conditions and monitors protection-related issues concerning 300 civilian internees held in the INSS camp in Kinshasa, who also receive weekly food rations, non food kits and medical support;

  • The ICRC further regularly visits detainees held in prisons, communal lock-ups, gendarmeries, and other places of detention to ensure that the treatment of those people held in relation with the conflict conforms to standards laid down by humanitarian law. In government-held areas the ICRC has extended its detention programme by visiting ten new central prisons in the provinces to now visit some 4,426 detainees in the first six months. The ICRC visits over 270 detainees held in some 20 different places of detention in the east (Goma, Bukavu, Uvira, Kisangani and Kalemie.) Where necessary the ICRC provides material support either directly or through local NGOs. Medical support is given to prison dispensaries and small-scale water and sanitation activities are carried out where appropriate. The Red Cross message (RCM) network functions well in the places of detention and those visited have the possibility of writing messages;

   

Civilians

  • The Red Cross message (RCM) network continues to extend on either side of the disengagement zone. There are now a total of 153 small tracing structures run by the Congolese Red Cross under ICRC supervision throughout the country. Since January 121,906 RCMs have been handled, destined for Congolese people in DRC, and refugees in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and the rest of the world. RCMs may well cross several frontlines before reaching their destination.

  • Since January, a total of 142 unaccompanied Congolese children (UACs) were reunited with their families. 487 Rwandan UACs and 8 Burundian UACs were repatriated back to their respective countries. Approximately 600 children (UACs and orphans) accommodated in one children's centre in Goma continue to receive food and medicines from the ICRC.

    

 
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 ASSISTANCE  

   

    

 Resident and displaced population  

   

    

 a) Economic Security  

   

Katanga province

  • In June the ICRC completed the second phase of its aid operation for the resident population in Nyunzu (Katanga province). Over a period of slightly more than two months, a Hercules made 18 flights in two distribution rounds to bring in 320 tonnes of food (beans, flour, maize, oil and salt) and other relief supplies for some 13,500 people. Seed assistance will be provided in August to some 3,500 families. According to delegates on the spot who have evaluated the harvest of food crops in the region, the nutritional and economical status of the residents has improved. This is because developments in the conflict allowed the people living in the area to cultivate more land and thus to avoid being completely dependent on humanitarian aid.

  • Following other evalutations in North Katanga (Kabalo, Manono et Kongolo), distributions of seeds, tools and reinstallation kits for the populations of Kabalo and Manono towns and surrounding areas (approximately 10,000 families or 50,000 people), are underway, together with fishing material for a hundred families in Kabalo. Supplies are being flown in from Goma by Hercules in 14 rotations.

  • Non-food kits were distributed to 3,000 families in the Kilwa area. An evaluation has been carried out north of Kilwa around Lukonzolwa and non-food items are to be distributed in July. 

   

North and South Kivu

  • The ICRC continues to support seed multiplication organisations in North and South Kivu with a total of three tonnes of se eds.

  • During the second agricultural season of 2001 (B season), 15,500 families (77,500 people) received seed and tools assistance in North and South Kivu provinces. Together with the 25,000 families (140,000 people) planned for the first agricultural season of 2002 (A season), the ICRC will therefore assist some 40,500 families (202,500 people). An agricultural evaluation on the Ruzizi plain in South Kivu has identified the need for seed and tools assistance which will take place in September for 15,000 families. Evaluations in North Kivu and most parts of South Kivu have been impossible due to the poor roads during the rainy season and the rapidly deteriorating security conditions.

   

Equateur province

  • The ICRC has recently provided non-food and fishing materials to some 800 families at Lolanga-Mompoko.

 
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 b) Water and sanitation     

  • The ICRC continues to support the water board (REGIDESO) and electrical board (SNEL) with the major rehabilitation of civil engineering works such as the Tshopo II water plant and the Darma pumping station at Kisangani. Some 100 tonnes of chemicals and spare parts were also supplied to R EGIDESO over the last three months thus contributing to the provision of safe water to the entire population in Goma, Kisingani, Kalemie, Bukavu and Gbadolite.

  • In Kinshasa, the rehabilitation of the Ndijili water treatment plant continues. Once completed, it will increase water production by 50%, benefiting a population of 4,000,000 people.

  • In Goma, the water cholorination project is continuing at 15 different sites which supply water to some 27,000 people.

 
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 Wounded and sick  

  • The ICRC continues to assist medical structures for the treatment of the war wounded and the civilian population. Evaluations of those close to the disengagement zone which have been badly affected by the war have been possible, and where necessary medical assistance has been provided to help them to restart or continue their activities. In 2001 these include: five medical structures at Lubumbashi, Ankoro, Kisangani and Kalemie general hospitals, Kamina military hospital, health centres at Pepa, Minembwe, Bukavu and Opala, Mbuji-Mayi and Kananga general hospitals, Ngashi and Baringa military camp hospitals, four health centres at Anzi/Ene and five at Kinshasa and the health centre at Uvira.

  • The ICRC supports the authorities to provide guaranteed minimum standards of treatment for war-wounded patients along the length of the evacuation chain. At Kinshasa, Boende in Equat eur province and in Katanga province, since the beginning of the year some 500 stretcher bearers have been trained and teams have received stretchers and first aid kits. According to the military authorities the impact of the stretcher-bearer training is extremely positive as the few war-wounded arriving from the front have their injuries already well treated now.

  • The orthopeadic centre at Kalembe Lembe, Kinshasa continues to produce prostheses for an average of 20 per month for military and civilian amputees from western DRC.

 
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 PREVENTIVE ACTION  

  • The ICRC continues to organise dissemination sessions to different target groups (armed forces, opposition groups, militias, the general public etc.) to present itself as an effective, neutral, impartial and independent emergency humanitarian organisation which acts according to its specific IHL mandate.

 
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 COOPERATION WITH NATIONAL SOCIETIES  

    

  • The ICRC helps with the overall development of the National Society, especially in terms of emergency response preparation, and internal dissemination; through the support of the ICRC and the International Federation new provincial assemblies of the Congolese Red Cross were held in all provinces contributing to the reinforcement of the unity of the National Society; The Extraordinary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Congolese Red Cross was also supported by the ICRC.

For further information, please contact the External Resources Division.