Fact sheet: ICRC in the Republic of Congo

General Situation:
Due to conflicts in recent years in the Republic of Congo, the destruction of infrastructure has left few reliable sources of energy, limited means of communication, no functioning banking or penal systems and unstable education and economic systems.

The Congolese people are now facing an uncertain future with insecure sources of income, high unemployment and a lower standard of living. In certain areas the presence of armed groups continues to be a problem creating instability and tension.

Since the end of August 1998, the humanitarian and security situations in the south-west of the country and in parts of the capital, Brazzaville, have deteriorated.

It is difficult to assess the humanitarian situation in the southwest regions due to the security situation. However, an estimated 200,000 and 150,000 people respectively have been displaced by the violence and agricultural production has been disrupted as a result of the prevailing insecurity. In certain regions food requirements for the population of Brazzaville have become increasingly critical.

The ICRC delegation is located in Brazzaville.The ICRC has decided to step up its operations and increase assitance programmes in 1999.

Major Activities:

Assistance and Health Services:

Emergency assistance including medical care, water supply, sanitation, food and non-food distribution is provided by the Red Cross Movement.

Access to health structures remains an important issue. The ICRC focuses its efforts on evaluating the needs of health facilities in Brazzaville and medical supplies are provided to dispensaries.

The ICRC supplies the three main operational hospitals in Brazzaville receiving war-wounded and displaced people. The ICRC provided the hospitals with dressing, dispensary and paediatric kits, as well as other drugs and dressing material.

Efforts to Gain Access to Detainees:

A number of people were arrested in connection with the 1997 conflict or for security reasons. Following the events, the ICRC made representations at the highest level with a view to visiting places of detention. A formal proposal, drafted in cooperation with government consultants, was submitted to the government in May 1998. Although the ICRC recieved poitive signals with regard to this proposal, the signing of the document was postponed because of the outbreak of hostilities in December of 1998.

Coordinated Approach:

The ICRC maintains the role of lead agency in directing and coordinating the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's emergency operations in the Republic of the Congo. The ICRC and the Congolese Red Cross Society have been collaborating to provide essential assistance to displaced people, with additional support given by the Federation to ensure the institutional development of the National Society.

The ICRC activities in the Republic of Congo cover a wide spectrum of humanitarian activities, such as:

Relief activities that provide assistance to vulnerable people:

Between January and September 1999, the ICRC:

- distributed more than 555 tonnes of food, tarpaulins and jerrycans to vulnerable people in Brazzaville

- opened a feeding centre for 800 people in Brazzaville, registering malnourished children and adults; supplied regular food aid to 481 malnourished children in camps for the displaced

- provided 3.5 tonnes of soap, 922 jerrycans, 2,880 tarpaulins, 8,800 blankets, 3,567 cooking pots and 2,443 kitchen sets to families returning home to Brazzaville

Restoring family links through the Red Cross Message Network:

- Between January and September 1999, the ICRC handled 2,841 RCMs between Brazzaville and various destinations and reunited 35 unaccompanied Congolese children with close relatives through the Red Cross Message Network.

Health activities to care for the wounded and sick:

- Between January and September 1999, the ICRC gave medical support to health posts and dispensaries in sites where displaced people are gathered and in southern districts and to Brazzaville's 3 main operational hospitals; trained local surgeons in war surgery; evacuated 157 war-wounded from locations in Brazzaville to different hospitals in the capital.

Organising educational/ promotional seminars and courses on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and principles:

- Between January and September 1999, the ICRC initiated sessions on the law of armed conflict for soldiers of the Congolese Armed Forces.

Budget and Staff:

The 2000 budget for ICRC Republic of Congo is SFr 18,831,214.

Personnel includes:
- 13 expatriates.
- 99 locally hired staff.