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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC opens an office in Kalemie

03-02-1999 News Release 99/05

On 28 January an ICRC team conducted a survey of the humanitarian situation in Kalémié, on Lake Tanganyika, an eastern area of the country partly controlled by the opposition movement, the Congolese Rally for Democracy. The ICRC decided to open an office there in order to meet the needs of the local population, as supply routes, by both land and water, are regularly cut off and food prices are rising steadily. The problem is compounded by the fact that the hostilities have prevented many farmers from tending their fields.

The survey also revealed the precarious working conditions of the town's medical personnel. A shortage of basic medicines and surgical instruments is hampering consultations and surgical operations, despite the skill and dedication of the staff, and all the sterilizers are out of order.

The inhabitants of Kalémié are isolated from the rest of the country because of insecure road conditions. With the ICRC's help they will be able to re-establish contact with relatives in other parts of the DRC. For example, a number of women and children in Uvira are separated from their families who have remained in Kalémié.

The ICRC is active in other eastern towns as well, with mobile teams, based in Goma and Bukavu, covering Uvira, Kisangani, Kindu and Bunia. It is providing medical aid, distributing food and other supplies, visiting detainees, organizing the exchange of family messages between separated relatives and arranging for children to be reunited with their families. Eight expatriates and 130 locally recruited personnel are currently working in the area partly controlled by the Congoles e Rally for Democracy.

The ICRC is also present in the rest of the country, with a staff of about 15 expatriates and 550 local personnel. It visited over 3,000 detainees in 1998, and continues to provide medical assistance, food and non-food aid to those in need. It is actively engaged in raising awareness of international humanitarian law, and works in close cooperation with the National Red Cross Society.

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