Population Movements in Bas-Congo Situation Report No. 3 (Final)
Appeal No. 10/99
Period covered: April, 1999 - April, 2000
The objectives established for this project were realistic and attainable. However, the political and economic situation existing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the time had an unexpectedly large impact on programme implementation. On the financial side, the Congolese franc continued its downward spiralling, a factor which had an enormous impact on buying power. The political and security situation in Bas-Congo resulted in the Delegate mission being limited from six to four months.
Despite the numerous constraints, the Red Cross volunteers, supported by the Federation's relief delegate and the village communities in Bas-Congo, successfully met most of the planned objectives.
The Bas-Congo Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was invaded by rebel forces in August 1998 and they controlled the province until October of the same year when the united forces of the Government of the DRC and those provided by the Angolan Government were able to oust the rebels from the region. During the two months of rebel control, villages were looted, and houses, schools, water installations and health centres were damaged or destroyed. In addition to the ravages of the war, the villages met with a new influx of Angolans and Congolese fleeing the escalated fighting in northern Angola and in the Republic of Congo and seeking refuge in the villages across the border in Bas-Congo. Already extremely scarce resources had to be shared with the newcomers. The number of refugees continued to grow and it was estimated that approximately 55,000 had fled to DRC between January and March of 1999 when the Appeal was launched. This 55,000 joined the already 44,000 established in Bas-Congo since before the beginning of the year. In order to ease the strain on the villages hosting a large number of refugees, the Federation launched an appeal in the form of agricultural support, health care as well as construction and/or repair of schools and dispensaries to be implemented over a six month period. The Appeal also included a water sanitation component. The beneficiaries of the Appeal were both the refugee population and the host population of the targeted villages.
The criteria established for the villages targeted for assistance were: villages that had had their crops and planting seeds looted; villages whose schools and health facilities had been damaged or destroyed; villages who had no access to health care; villages with no safe water supply; and villages having a high percentage of newly arrived refugees. Contact was made with the various Government authorities in Matadi to explain the project and to get their input as to the villages most impacted by the war and the arrival of the latest influx of refugees. An assessment team composed of International Federation local employees from the Matadi office, a Relief Delegate, members of the Bas-Congo Provincial Committee of the Red Cross, members of the local Red Cross and government officials where appropriate, then spent several days visiting villages identified as well as other villages in the districts of Bas-fleuve, Cataractes and Lukaya.
The Appeal was launched with a six month implementation time frame and with a budget based on the construction or rehabilitation of 8 dispensaries, the construction or rehabilitation of 6 schools, the distribution of seeds and agricultural tools for 5000 families and the rehabilitation of water supplies for eight villages.
Neither the time frame nor the initial targets were able to be met. Immediately after the launching of the Appeal, the Democratic Republic of Congo went into an economic decline that continues today. The Government reacted by outlawing the used of foreign currency in the country and fixing an official exchange rate of 3 Congolese francs to 1 USD. This was later raised to 4.5 CF's to 1 USD and this official rate remained in place for the rest of 1999. However, the unofficial rate or the real purchasing rate climbed steadily and by the end of the year was at approximately 30 CF's to 1 USD. Therefore, our initial estimates of costs of materials and labour were no longer valid and had, in fact, steadily increased from double to triple and by the end of the year the cost had quadrupled. The other major difficulty was also related to the economic crisis and resulted in great difficulty in obtaining the materials necessary for construction of the dispensaries and the purchase of the necessary seeds became a major challenge since the Government itself was buying up almost all the available seeds.
Despite these difficulties, more positively identified as challenges, the end result of the project should be termed successful.