Republic of Congo: ICRC visits Pool region

On 9 and 10 December an ICRC team visited the conflict-affected areas of the southern Pool region, 70kilometres south-west of Brazzaville. This is the first time that the ICRC has been able to travel to these areas since renewed fighting broke out in the country in late December 1998. The main purpose of the trip was to assess the general security situation in the two districts of Kinkala and Boko and evaluate the needs of the civilian population.

While the security situation has improved in some parts of the southern Pool in recent months, in other parts civilians are still caught up in the conflict. This remains a major concern for the ICRC.

The most urgent needs reflect the complete breakdown of administrative and health services in the area. Since late July, insecurity, food shortages and lack of medicine and proper medical care have forced up to 10,000 people a week to leave the Pool for Brazzaville. And every week hundreds more pour into the main towns, Kinkala and Boko, in search of assistance. Some of these people come from the forests, where they fled, others from surrounding villages. Most of them, both children and adults, are malnourished and in urgent need of medical treatment. The ICRC team was told that many had been left behind because they were too weak to walk.

In Kinkala, the destruction of the water treatment plant has made the situation particularly critical: 80per cent of the water needs are covered by rainfall and the rainy season is due to end in early January.

The programmes recently set up in Boko and Kinkala by humanitarian agencies are still insufficient to cover the population's needs. Unless increased assistance is provided, the displacement of malnourished and sick civilians will continue.

Further information: Laurent Colassis, ICRC Brazzaville, tel. ++ 242 81 12 08 / ++243 880 30 73
Roland Sidler, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 20 45