Burundi + 10 more

ActionAid Emergencies Monthly Update Feb 2001


  • India Earthquake
  • El Salvador Earthquake
  • Mozambique Floods
  • Conflict in Sierra Leone and Guinea
  • Uganda Ebola Intervention Update
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Crisis

India Earthquake Update

A trail of destruction of life and property 13 days after the tragedy struck Gujarat marks evidence of a disaster on a scale not witnessed by the current generation of India. The foreign rescue teams have now left as the priority is no longer to search for survivors but to dispose of the bodies as the debris gradually clears and the struggle to rebuild lives commences.

In remote areas, the outlying villages, relief has trickled in very slowly. Approximately 8,000 villages have been affected, water supply is reaching 500 of these. Due to access problems relief trucks have not been accessing these villages. Communities in these areas are forced to go the main road to acquire relief supplies.

The effects of the disaster have already resulted in survivors resorting to escape mechanisms including substance abuse and alcoholism, as they are unable to come to terms with their situation.


The immediate needs for physical survival are food, shelter, disposal of dead bodies, treatment of injury and disease and prevention of disease. Dead bodies continue to rot in the hot sun and many traumatised survivors are sleeping under the open sky with no protection against the low nighttime temperatures. The security and safety of single women and young girls is an urgent priority to ensure protection from sexual exploitation. During a disaster women and young girls are often trafficked in a way that is made to look like adoptions. There is equally a need for psycho social counselling, an aspect that is often neglected in the immediate rush for food and shelter when in fact these people have lived through a trauma greater than most people experience in a lifetime and therefore need enormous healing and support.

ActionAid's response

There are approximately 15 core ActionAid staff in the field being assisted by 30-40 staff from partner organisations. An office has been set up in Ahmedabad. The shift is now being made from relief and rescue to rehabilitation and reconstruction. The challenge that lies ahead is immense: one of rebuilding homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. What is even greater than the physical reconstruction is that of reconstructing the human spirit and it is this that would form the core focus of ActionAid's interventions.

There are three main areas that ActionAid propose to focus on. These are:

  • Caring Community - SNEHA SAMUDAYA. Community based rehabilitation of people most at risk. This includes women (including widows), their children, orphaned children, the disabled and the elderly who are left without the care of their families, shelter or livelihoods.

  • Community with Hope - ASHA SAMUDAYA. Community based methods to assist individuals and communities to cope with the enormity of the psychological trauma and to rebuild their spirit to face life once again with hope.

  • Rights of the Community - SAMUDAYAKA ADHIKAR. To assist the survivors, particularly the most vulnerable, to assert their rights for transparency, accountability and information for relief and rehabilitation and rights of vulnerable people like women, children, dalits and minorities.

Short-term strategies include setting up crisis response centres for all people at risk. At these centres rescue telephone lines will be provided or radios for remote areas cut off from communication. The provision of water is also a key area of intervention given that Kutch had been suffering from severe drought before the disaster hit.

There is a need to house those who seek protection at the centres and who are identified as being the most at risk in temporary shelters. There they would be protected from exploitation, be ensured physical survival and receive trauma counselling. ActionAid aim to set up 100 temporary shelters within a month.

In the medium term (commencing around six months after the disaster), the greatest challenge will be to engage the survivors into planning their long-term rehabilitation. Possible options include the adoption of small children, rehabilitation in extended families, creation of new foster families with children and single women and old people coming together. The process would aim to sensitively assist and empower each traumatised and vulnerable individual to make choices about their future.

DEC Appeal

The DEC appeal The DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) is an organisation made up of 14 members including ActionAid, that launches and co-ordinates national appeals to raise funds (from the public) for large scale disasters). During an appeal these member agencies link together under the umbrella of the DEC to maximise the fundraising potential and benefit from the DEC's alliance with the broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4), celebrity supporters, banks and post offices. for the Indian earthquake was successfully launched on Thursday 1st February with much publicity. To date By 6pm on Thursday 8th February 2001 the appeal has raised almost £6 million.

AA Supporters Appeal

An ActionAid Supporters appeal was launched on Tuesday 6th February with a mail shot which reached 105,000 supporters. To date we have received approximately £170, 000 By 6pm on Thursday 8th February 2001.


Although ActionAid does not have a programme in El Salvador directly, Ayuda en Acción, one of our sister organisations has been working there since 1990 in 5 districts. One of these districts, Usulutan, is one of the areas worst affected by the earthquake that hit El Salvador on the 13th January 2001. Still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Mitch 90% of the infrastructure has been wiped out.

The death toll has reached 726 with 111, 4011 people injured and 193,281 houses damaged or destroyed. One problem being faced now is that of land. The rainy season is due to start soon and before that happens it is essential that the cracks caused by the quake are closed up otherwise there is a great risk of landslides. Another area seriously affected is the fishing industry as since the earthquake struck, the fishermen have been unable to catch anything. One of the explanations for this is seabed has been disturbed and with it the source of food for the marine life causing them to make a temporary move to calmer waters.

On a more positive note the temperatures are rising so they are not as extreme as they have been in the last few weeks which has slightly eased the situation for thousands of people sleeping under plastic sheets.

Since the day the earthquake hit the National Solidarity Commission have distributed more than 2,400 tonnes of relief supplies including food, medicine and personal articles. The majority of these supplies coming from international donations.

Ayuda en Acción continue to carry out planning work and will shortly begin the process of managing reconstruction work in the Usulutan DA. Their main objectives are:

  • To construct and/or rehabilitate family and community basic infrastructure.
  • To guarantee food security to the affected people and regenerate local product income.
  • To improve the psychological state of those affected by the earthquake.
  • To improve coordination of all local actors for disaster prevention for future disasters.


Heavy rains in Zambezia, central Mozambique have caused flooding along the Zambezi River. An estimated 253,000 have been affected with many displaced and one reported death. The worst affected areas are very remote often only accessible by air, so relief has been slow in arriving. Bridges have also been destroyed, cutting road access (including a bridge built by AA last year). The districts of Maganja da Costa and Pebane are both affected although initial assessments indicate that flooding in ActionAid's two DAs has not been severe. The heavy rains have now stopped and water levels are dropping.

AA Mozambique with other DEC agencies is working closely with the provincial government and the UN system in the emergency response which includes the provision of food and water and sanitation equipment. AA Mozambique has provided emergency kits and general funding support to the Government's relief effort. Seeds and tools may be needed as rice; the main crop of the area has sustained prolonged inundation.

Heavy flooding last year has left much of southern Mozambique water logged and prone to further flooding. The rains will continue until May so further emergency responses are likely.



The situation throughout the country remains calm though the situation in Guinea is having a severe impact on Sierra Leone. The attacks on Guinea in which Revolutionary United Front Rebels (RUF) are alleged to have taken part has provoked angry response from Guinea by attacking villages in the northern parts of Kambia and Koinadugu districts. Latest attacks have been on Yealiboya in Port Loko district and Kamakwie in Bombali.

The country remains divided between the government and RUF and there are frantic efforts on the side of UNAMSIL (UN troops) to facilitate the reopening of roads leading to RUF controlled areas to civilian traffic. The RUF leader is still in detention awaiting trial for crimes against innocent civilians.

The UNAMSIL mission to Sierra Leone has still not been deployed throughout the country since they are handicapped by unwillingness of some countries to contribute troops to the mission. Nonetheless, the mission is engaged in regular contact with the RUF to adhere to the agreement signed in Abuja- Nigeria.

The British troops who came to the rescue of the government and the docile UNAMSIL are currently providing training for the Government's Army. They have also extended their stay in the country to September 2001, during which they would provide training and advice to the Government.

Britain is asking the Security Council to impose sanctions on Liberia for their support to RUF.

Few fighters from the rebels and defunct AFRC are turning in themselves and are joining the Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration programmes. About 260 fighters have so far surrendered with 52 different sorts of arms in January.


A large part of the Diamond mining area, the main economic basket, is still occupied by the rebels. Proceeds from most of the Diamonds mined are going into the coffers of RUF and their main backers. This has deprived the government from urgently needed funds to help rebuild the country.

Some roads leading to RUF held areas have been reopened to civilian traffic but business men/women seem to be cautious over doing business in these areas. Thus trade between the divided zones is restricted.


The aerial bombing of RUF fighters in North - Western region by Guinean forces has led to mass displacement of people. A lot of civilians have been forced to evacuate some of these communities. Currently there are about 3000 internally displaced persons in some of the communities in Lungi area, which is under the Sierra Leone Army.

The fighting in Guinea has also provoked the mass repatriation of refugees living in the 'Parrot's beak' area. At the moment, about 45,349 Sierra Leoneans have arrived from Guinea. Some of these are currently hosted in Internally Displaced Camps and communities declared safe by the government. Some not registered are living behind rebel lines.


The security situation in Guinea is deteriorating on the daily basis as frequent rebel attacks are reported in the southern part of the country (Gueguedou). According to UNHCR report the refugees are caught up in the fighting between the dissident forces and the Guinean military. The attacks have resulted in a grave humanitarian situation for a quarter of a million refugees in the "Parrot's Beak" area. This situation has forced a lot of refugees to either flee to RUF controlled areas or ask for repatriation to Sierra Leone via Conakry.

Meanwhile, the Guinean president has sacked his defence minister and has not yet announced a replacement.


  • Giving out cash loan to wives of ex-combatants in the east.
  • Working on strategies to place ex-combatants in different institutions for skills training.
  • Conducting peace sensitisation campaign in the western area, east and south of the country.
  • Supplied seeds and tools to farmers in the Western Area.
  • Conducted training on Social Reintegration and Rehabilitation for youths in Mile 91.
  • Paid school charges for 222 children of amputees and war wounded.

UN agencies and INGOs on the ground are currently engaged in the repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea / the resettlement of IDPs and returnees to safer areas in the country / Provision of humanitarian assistance to IDPs and returnees through out the safe areas in the country / Trying to contact RUF to open up their areas to humanitarian agencies.


The current fighting which involved the three- (3) Mano River Union countries could degenerate into a major sub-regional conflict if the situation is not brought under control. Liberia has recalled its ambassador from Guinea and the two presidents seem reluctant to resolve the matter on the negotiation table.

Ongoing efforts by Britain to impose sanction on Liberia, if adhered to by the international body could bring some sanity to this war ravaged country since RUF would no longer access deadly weapons to pursue the war.

It is highly likely that the rate of disarmament will increase since some RUF fighters are showing reluctance to further engage in combat activities.

Fighting in Guinea, which is forcing refugees to flee to RUF, controlled areas could result in serious humanitarian situations as these places lack the basic facilities.

It is feared that Sierra Leonean refugees who are fleeing the fighting in Guinea may suffer from hunger, poor health and human right abuses during their flight.

The opening of roads by the RUF to their territories could be a ploy to attract resources into their territories, which they may close at any time.


As of 9th January 2001, the Uganda Ministry of Health reported a cumulative figure of 427 cases and 173 deaths. Only one person in Gulu has died of Ebola over the last 16 days.

Only three districts out of (53) of Gulu, Masindi and Mbarara have had Ebola cases so far. Mbarara district has now been declared Ebola free since there have not been any new Ebola cases for the last six weeks.

The death of the child in Gulu has however reversed the count down to 42 days in Gulu for the Ministry to declare it district Ebola free. The baby that died was of a previous case detected on December 22, 2000. Two other close contacts of the baby are being monitored for any symptoms of the disease.

In Masindi, no new cases have been reported over the last three and a half weeks. This is attributed to the vigilant campaign that was carried out by the Ebola task force in December 2000.

ActionAid's involvement in the Ebola campaign.

ActionAid has played a key role in community education and sensitisation against Ebola. ActionAid continues to work with the Masindi Ebola task force on the campaign through the 40 community educators that were trained, a drama group and REFLECT facilitators.

Because of these and other efforts by the Ministry and the Task Force, Masindi has not had any new Ebola cases for the last three and a half weeks. Masindi has 18 days to go to be declared Ebola free.

Despite the absence of new confirmed cases being reported in Masindi, the Masindi Ebola task force has continued active case search and contact tracing. Public education and social mobilisation are continuing in the two districts and all over the country.

If there are no new confirmed cases after 42 days, then the Ministry of Health will declare Uganda Ebola free. The public has been urged to remain vigilant and to take precautionary measures against Ebola.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Crisis

The conflict system in the great Lakes region took a new twist in the wake of the assassination of the DRC president Laurent Desire Kabila.

A week before Kabila's assassination, the occurrence of intra-tribe conflict in the rebel held area of Bunia occurred causing more than 7,000 people to flee into Uganda's Kasese area.

Renewed fighting between the rival Lendu and Hema communities in Ituri province - whose capital is Bunia - comes just after rebel leaders signed an agreement on forming a joint movement, the Congolese Liberation Front (CLF).

The newly appointed head of state for the DRC, Major General Joseph Kabila the son of the late president within the first two days of his leadership bombed the RCD rebel stronghold of Pweto in the south. Six civilians were killed and many others injured.

About 20 bombs were dropped on Pweto shortly afterwards by a Russian-built Antonov aircraft. The Rwandan-backed Congolese rebel group Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) said there had been "intense bombings" of its positions in Pweto and its surroundings. In a separate statement, the RCD said that Congolese government forces, Rwandan militia forces and Burundi Hutu rebels had attacked RCD-Rwandan army forces 30 km to the south of Pweto, but were repulsed "with heavy losses".

The rebel factions backed by Uganda, held talks in Kampala and seemed to reach an alliance agreement forming a new movement called the Congolese Liberation Front (CLF). The deal, brokered in Kampala, Uganda, names Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Gbadolite-based Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) as president of the new group.

On the regional front, reaction from Kabila's opponents in the DRC conflict was muted with Rwanda and Uganda stressing the need now to push ahead with implementation of the Lusaka peace accord.

Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia have bolstered their support to the DRC government in a joint statement and Zimbabwe has sent in two battalions to reinforce their troops already in the DRC.

The international community has expressed concern for the possible humanitarian crisis in that country and the US representative to the UN urged all countries involved in the conflict in Congo not to take advantage of this transition period in the country to make military advances.

The Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel asked interim leader General Joseph Kabila, while attending the funeral of Laurent Kabila, to make "signs of opening." He urged for "the need for a process of legitimisation, a return to the Lusaka (peace) process without preconditions".

The situation on the ground in DRC is changing very quickly and it is still unclear when the combatants will resume some form of dialogue for peace. What is clear at the moment is that all parties concerned are still actively pursuing a military option for the crisis in the DRC. This situation presents great humanitarian challenges in a country that is reported to have had 1 million deaths since the beginning of the war in 1996.

Implications for ActionAid Country Programmes in the Region:

In view of the unstable and potentially volatile situation in the DRC, it is expected that renewed fighting in the northeast and southeast will result in the displacement of several thousand people from those areas. The existing displacement routes and patterns are likely to expand.


A large number of refugees can be expected to cross into Kaputa area in northern Zambia as the RCD rebels push south towards the Govt held town of Kasenga also on the Zambian border. The new caseload of refugees is expected to consist of combatants as well.

ActionAid's partner, HODI, is already engaged in humanitarian interventions in the Mayukoyuko refugee camp where increasing resources for the new caseload has caused some tension in the camp.

HODI should be looking for opportunities to engage the influx with the addition of the community services that they have been delivering to Mayukoyuko.

The legal and rights issues for the refugees will need to be considered as HODI works in this environment, especially in view that there may be combatants in the caseload.

The Rwanda Govt is likely to request that the ICTR screen the refugees in Zambia for possible involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) statute does not contain an explicit provision on the right to assistance and granting of access.

Support to HODI in refugee camp operations and the delivery of humanitarian minimum standards should be provided if required by the CPs with expertise in this area (Sierra Leone, Uganda).


The influx of refugees into Tanzania will be minimal because most of the western shores of Lake Tanganyika have been in rebel control for several months. There may however be small spontaneous movements as far south as Kipili as some people from the Pweto area cross the lake into Tanzania.

Increased incidents of banditry on the lake are likely to increase as undisciplined combatants take advantage of the waterborne trade traffic.

AATz should keep a watching brief in Kigoma for analysis and information sharing.

There is also concern that any camps set up for DRC refugees will quickly attract Burundian refugees and possibly Burundian combatants in search of additional resources and as possible recruitment venues.


The inter-ethnic fighting in Bunia is likely to continue to cause displacement into the Kasese region of Uganda. AAU should maintain a monitoring role for possible addition and support to the refugees. The area of emergency education may be an option of support to other key actors in Kasese.


It is unlikely that the situation in Rwanda will change in the short term and the refugees from the Masisi area of Goma currently in Rwanda are likely to remain in the existing camps.

AAR should however maintain a watching brief as the Rwanda Govt is a key player in the conflict.

Opportunities for policy influencing should be explored for peace building options.


Burundi which had recently launched a "close working" relationship with the Govt of slain Laurent Kabila, has remained quiet on its expectations from the new leadership. The continued collaboration of various combatant groups in DRC with Burundi Rebels and the increased operational alliances that these groups share is likely to continue.

The situation on the ground in Burundi will only have critical changes if there is a massive influx of refugees into Tanzania, or the just opened substantive meeting of the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) collapses.

There is however a growing concern that the assassination of Kabila in the DRC may motivate similar thinking among disgruntled members of the Burundi military.