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Update No. 97/9 on ICRC activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and neighbouring countries

22-05-1997 Operational Update

 Kinshasa operations resume day after takeover  

ICRC activities in Kinshasa resumed on Sunday, 18 May, one day after the ADFL's takeover of the capital. All of the work done over the weekend was carried out in excellent cooperation with the National Red Cross Society. Volunteers collected 200 dead from the streets of Kinshasa and evacuated several dozen wounded to various reference hospitals. On Sunday, a team of delegates visited hospitals throughout the capital to assess the situation there. Medical supplies were provided to ensure proper treatment of wounded. Emergency preparations made over the past week paid off, enabling a rapid and adequate response to be made to humanitarian needs in the city.

Neither ICRC staff nor Red Cross volunteers encountered problems in moving around in Kinshasa. Both are widely known for their humanitarian work, carried out in close cooperation and even in very difficult circumstances.

Over the coming days, the ICRC's main concern in Kinshasa will be protection, particularly relating to persons held in relation with the conflict. The most immediate priority will be to gain access to two military camps near Kinshasa.

 Assistance in Brazzaville and Bangui  

Over the weekend, two ICRC-chartered aeroplanes flew over four tonnes of emergency aid to Lukolela, in the Congo. Most of the relief goods were ferried to Liranga, a village some six hours away by dugout, where an estimated 5,000 Rwandans fleeing fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo/Zaire have sought refuge. Since the start of this operation, the ICRC has transported some 21 tonnes of food to Liranga and Lukolela.

An assessment mission is scheduled for this week to investigate the situation in Impfondo, further north along the Zaire river. In addition, on the basis of a survey carried out to determine the most urgent needs of the local population, fishing materials are to be provided.

Another ICRC team is planning to go to Mbandaka on 21 May to assess the situation and possibly assist some 2,000 refugees in the area.

The Congolese authorities have given their approval for a site to be established for the refugees. As they are preparing to bring the refugees further south, the boats to be used in the operation have been loaded with ICRC food and other assistance sufficient for 2,500 people for one week.

In the Central African Republic, since 12 May, ICRC expatriates and staff of the Central African Red Cross Society have been taking care of a total of some 200 wounded and sick refugees who had crossed the border. National Society staff brought first-aid materials, donated by the ICRC, and tents across the river to the Democratic Republic of Congo/Zaire. They also erected tents in Bangui to provide temporary accommodation for arriving refugees and accompanied refugees being evacuated by the authorities from Bangui to Bouca, north of Bangui. On Sunday, the National Society launched an operation to transfer to Bouca around 500 refugees located south of Bangui.

In and around Zongo (Democratic Republic of Congo/Zaire), across the river from Bangui, volunteers of the local Red Cross assisted wounded and evacuated the bodies of those killed in disturbances. ICRC personnel attended to war-wounded cared for in the community hospital of Bangui and distributed dressing materials.