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Republic of the Congo: ICRC activities, May-September 2006

01-09-2006 Operational Update

Water and habitat, health, agricultural and fish-farming projects, promotion of international humanitarian law (IHL), visits to people deprived of their freedom, restoration of family links and support for the Congolese Red Cross (CRC).

 

Assistance 
 

ICRC assistance activities have focused almost exclusively on the department of Pool, the region hardest hit by the most recent conflict to ravage the Congo. To allow the civilians who had fled from Pool to return, the ICRC is providing assistance in a variety of forms. One priority is to ensure access to drinking water and basic health care. The ICRC is also supporting groups of farmers, helping certain types of economic activity to resume.

 Water, sanitation and habitat  

 Integrated health centres (IHCs)  

  • Finished building a waste pit, water tank and rainwater catchment system for Kibouendé CSI (Kinkala district). The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the authorities. The health centre covers a health district of 6,300 people.

  • Continued renovating and extending Kimanika IHC (Mindouli district), which covers a health district of 6,300 people.

  • Started construction of a maternity unit at Madzia IHC (Mindouli district), which covers a health district of 8,000 people.

 Hospitals  

  • Repaired the walls of the water reservoir at Kindamba hospital and installed a plastic film to make it watertight. This hospital, which is supported by MSF, covers a health district of 5,650 people.

  • Carried out work on the water network to provide a water supply to Mindouli hospital, which is also supported by MSF.

 Access to drinking water in rural areas  

  • The local authorities officially opened waterworks in the presence of ICRC personnel in the districts of Mindouli (Loutéhété), Kindamba (Louo-Mingali and Kingoma), Vinza (Mihété, Mpangala and Impouo) and Kimba (Dzokotro and Mountséné). These facilities will safeguard Kinshasa’s water supply – a top priority for the ICRC.

  • Completed work on protecting and enhancing two springs, benefiting almost 500 people at Maniéto.

  • Completed construction of a well, benefiting over 300 people at Voula.

  • Signed a memorandum of understanding on the protection and enhancement of two springs and the construction of a water storage facility, benefiting 950 people at Louholo.

  • Conducted a geophysical survey, enabling the ICRC to drill boreholes in the area of Kimbédi.

  • Repaired pumps in Impouo, Dzokotro, Mountséné and Kindamba, benefiting 1,400 people.

 Cooperation between the ICRC and the Société nationale des eaux (SNDE)  

  • Organized training for staff of the SNDE and the REGIDESO (water authority of the DRC) on water treatment and diagnosis of problems in water treatment plants. The course was held in Brazzaville, from 5 to 16 June 2006. The instructor was a specialist from the International Office for Water, which is based in Limoges, France.

  • Following the signing on 12 July of a memorandum of understanding between the ICRC and the SNDE concerning renovation of the Kinkala water treatment plant, civil engineering and cleanup work started at the beginning of September. Following renovat ion, this facility will serve approximately 10,000 people.

 Programme to raise awareness of hygiene and sanitation issues  

  • Held education sessions on hygiene and sanitation, collected behaviour data regarding water points and set up water management committees in Mpangala, Kingoma, Impouo, Louholo, Dzokotro, Voula, Moulouangou and Maniéto.

 Health  

 Integrated health centres (IHCs)  

  • Opened an IHC at Kibouendé, following full renovation by the ICRC.

  • The ICRC is continuing to support eight IHCs in Pool department by providing medicines and various other items, and by training the personnel. These centres cover some 62,000 people. Some 4,000 receive medical care every month.

 Training  

The ICRC provided financial and logistics support for training IHC staff in the following areas:

 - hygiene and reproductive health (11 persons, 27 June-1 July);

 - the new treatment protocol for malaria adopted by the ministry of health in February 2006 (12 persons, 26-28 September). The ICRC will therefore shortly be including the new anti-malaria medication in deliveries to those IHCs that request it.

 Cassava project  

For almost a decade, cassava mosaic virus disease has been affecting the manioc plants that produce cassava, the staple in this country. The disease is reducing the number of healthy cuttings available for planting, wh ich in turn has caused a significant drop in production.

Varietal adaptability trials have been under way for a number of months, to assess the resistance of 12 varieties of cassava – six local varieties and six improved varieties from the DRC. Initial results are satisfactory, with the improved varieties from the DRC performing well. This project is being conducted in cooperation with staff from the agricultural sector of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock (MAFL).

 Fish-farming project  

To restart fish farming in certain places within Pool department, the ICRC has been renovating fishponds, distributing brood-stock fish and alevins and offering specialist training. Tilapia nilotica has been selected for it robustness, its adaptability and its hardiness. These fish are easy to handle, grow quickly and therefore have considerable commercial potential. They have been introduced in five districts of Pool department: Kinkala, Mindouli, Kindamba, Vinza and Kimba.

  • The ICRC has provided assistance to some15 pilot groups in the districts of Kinkala and Mindouli, enabling them to restart fish farming. This assistance has involved supplying such items as nets, wheelbarrows, machetes, basins, shovels, etc. Using this equipment, it should be possible to renovate the fishponds. In addition to equipment, each group has received 1 kg of brood-stock fish.

  • Another 16 groups were then identified, provided with fish-farming equipment and trained prior to receiving the alevins that the pilot groups will produce.

 
Prevention 
 

The ICRC’s preventive action consists of promoting IHL and humanitarian principles with a view to limiting the effects of armed violenc e.

 Contacts with the authorities  

  • An awareness-raising session on IHL and the work of the ICRC took place on 8 September 2006. The event was attended by 109 municipal officials (councillors, mayors and secretaries-general of arrondissements) from the city of Brazzaville.

 National implementation of IHL  

  • To help the Congolese authorities implement IHL, the ICRC has been encouraging the creation of an interministerial committee on the implementation of IHL. On 2 June 2006, a workshop was held for senior Congolese personnel and legal experts responsible for considering how to implement IHL in the country. An ICRC legal expert came over from Abidjan specially for the event. Following the workshop, the Congolese participants produced a preliminary draft of a decree covering the setting up of a future implementation committee, its composition and its functioning, together with other texts concerning this body. The ICRC is now waiting for this decree to be signed.

 Congolese armed forces  

  • As part of its efforts to raise awareness of IHL, the ICRC has held several information sessions around the country, attended by 1,659 members of the Congolese armed forces.

  • The ICRC has supported revision of the IHL elements of training programmes at Makola training centre.

  • The ICRC took part in the final exercise of a promotion course at Makola training centre that renders NCOs eligible for promotion to second lieutenant.

 Police and gendarmerie  

  • Eight information sessions on ICRC activities, humanitarian principles and human rights as they apply to internal security operations were held in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Kinkala and Boko. In all, these events were attended by 303 police officers and 134 gendarmes.

  • The ICRC published two articles in the fortnightly gendarmerie magazine Gend’aujourdhui on the humanitarian and human rights principles applicable to the work of police and security forces.

 Other bearers of weapons and the general public  

  • A play was performed in Lari, raising awareness of basic humanitarian principles and the work of the ICRC. Six performances took place in Kibouendé, Voula, Moulouangou and Maniéto (Kinkala district) and Kimanika and Kingouala (Mindouli district).

 Media  

  • A press conference was held on 25 September 2005 to present an overview of the ICRC’s work in the Republic of the Congo.

 Academic sector and schools  

  • For one month, a comic book entitled The battle of the villages was used with secondary school pupils in Matoumbou, Madzia Kibouendé (Kinkala district), to raise their awareness of the values and basic principles of humanitarian law. At the end of this period, the pupils took a written test. As an incentive, the best 10 pupils at each school were awarded a prize consisting of school and other items.

 
Protection 
 

 Protection of people deprived of their freedom  

As part of its efforts to help people deprived of their freedom in connection with political tension, and on the basis of an agreement with the government signed in 1999, the ICRC visits places of detention that fall under the responsibility of the ministries of security and public order, justice and defence. The aims of these visits are to promote respect for human dignity and to improve conditions of detention where necessary.

  • the ICRC made seven visits to 7 places of detention in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire;

  • work was completed on building/renovating a septic tank and inside toilets at Poto Poto police station.

 Restoring family links  

As part of its efforts to restore family links, the ICRC operates the Red Cross message system, whereby anyone separated from members of their family on account of armed conflict can write them a message. These messages contain only family news, The ICRC also reunites members of families with each other. This mainly benefits the most vulnerable of separated family members – children.

The ICRC:

  • collected 422 Red Cross messages and delivered 527, mainly in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and the department of Cuvette Ouest;

  • reunited two unaccompanied children with their families;

  • located one person for whom a tracing request had been submitted.

 
Cooperation with the Congolese Red Cross 
 
  • Completed renovation of the Kindamba branch building. The opening ceremony took place on 29 June 2006.

  • Officially started construction of the Kinkala branch building.

  • As part of efforts to enhance the capabilities of the CRC, the departmental branch of Brazzaville (with support from the ICRC) trained 47 senior personnel from the local committees of Brazzaville’s seven arrondisse ments. During this training, the personnel concerned were able to deepen their knowledge of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and explore the fundamental aspects of IHL.