period covered: 1 January - 30 April 2000
Political, economic and social instability continues to impact the Central Africa region (an area comprised of the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe and Chad). Civil conflicts have had an adverse affect within these countries, as well on their neighbours. The situation in the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is precarious due to difficulties in implementing a democratic process and a enduring climate of intolerance.
Falling world prices of raw materials (cocoa in San Tome and Principle and Cameroon) only exacerbate these countries' difficult economic situation. The conflict with lending agencies (IMF, World Bank, and others) in Gabon plunged the country into a crisis affecting all sectors of the society. Equatorial Guinea, due to its petroleum production is the exception, experiencing somewhat positive economic development.
The difficult economic situation in the region continues to provoke unease which in the short term might trigger internal violence as a result of uneven distribution of wealth. Life in these countries is particularly difficult for the most vulnerable including children, women, the sick and the elderly. The AIDS pandemic has also strongly impacted some countries in the region (principally the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon), with the rate of prevalence varying between 8% and 15%.
To respond to the humanitarian needs, the Federation strategy is focusing on strengthening the capacities of the National Societies by providing advice and guidance on institutional matters (statutes, organisation and management, governance), and support to promote and train human resources and assistance in the development and diversification of financial resources. Federation support to National Societies in implementing programmes aimed at helping the most vulnerable, particularly in the areas of community health and the promotion of humanitarian values, will also be prioritised, as well as providing technical and material support for disaster preparedness and prevention and for emergency response. By pursuing this strategy it is intended that the National Societies will eventually become independent in administrative and financial management, in the emergency response to disasters and conflicts, and in the provision of basic health and social services to the communities.
Since mid-December 1999 meningitis outbreaks have re-appeared in the region, primarily in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. At the end of April, 4,500 cases had been reported in Chad (with 600 deaths) and 1,100 cases in the CAR (with 195 deaths). There were 87 cases with 32 deaths registered in Cameroon where the epidemic was quickly brought under control. The epidemic this year occurred below the usual meningitis belt.
Following the signing of the peace accords between the government and opposition forces, the situation in the Republic of Congo has returned to normal. Major reconstruction efforts have been started in Brazzaville. However, some populations in certain regions of the country are still very vulnerable, in particular as a result of a lack of proper nutrition and forced or spontaneous population movements. The civil conflict between the government forces and the opposition forces continues in the north of Chad.
In February, the Presidents of the various Central African countries met in Equatorial Guinea to discuss peace and security in the region. Discussions also addressed the potential for a regional peace-keeping force.
The FAO Panafrican Conference which focused on "food security in Africa" was held in Cameroon in February and was attended by representatives of governments, as well as international and non-governmental organisations. The conference noted that food security in Africa remained precarious, and imposed a serious constraint on development of the continent.
Red Cross/Red Crescent action
The region is regularly affected by climate-related disasters causing epidemics, with diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and malaria which come in the wake of floods, and meningitis and acute respiratory diseases which occur in the wake of drought. Chad, Cameroon and the CAR are the three countries most regularly affected. The Regional Delegation provides the National Societies technical, material and financial support in their efforts to assist the population.
The Central African Red Cross Society pursued flood operations up to February. With the help of the Regional Delegation, 11 shelters for 600 displaced persons and teams of volunteers were built. Each team comprised 300 volunteers who cleaned up the city of Bangui. More than 5,000 persons were involved in this action.
The Regional Delegation provided the National Societies of Chad and the Central African Republic with technical support and supplies to combat the meningitis epidemic. An evaluation mission was carried out by a member of the epidemiological monitoring team for western Africa, resulting in a plan of action and appeal. The Federation provided 200,000 doses of vaccines and 3,000 vials of Chloramphenicol as well as the necessary disposable items to organise a vaccination campaign in both countries. Volunteers from the two National Societies (1,500 in Chad and 250 in the CAR) actively worked with the health authorities in both countries in combating this epidemic.
The health counterparts from the Red Cross Societies in central Africa held a meeting in Douala from 13 to 17 March. Each of the eight National Societies in the region was represented by one official from the health service and another from the youth section. This meeting primarily focused on implementation of the African Red Cross/Red Crescent Health Initiative (ARCHI 2010) programme and preparation of the regional AIDS programme including the creation of a regional AIDS network and the Culture of Peace. The role of this network is to coordinate National Society activities with a view to strengthening their capacities in these fields and to facilitate an exchanges of experience between the National Societies in the region. The programme encompasses financial, technical and material support for theatre troops, the publication of a comic strip for school children and a quarterly liaison bulletin of youth sections active in combating AIDS, the organisation of exchanges of experience through study trips for young people from the different National Societies, and promotion of the use of condoms.
The Central Africa Red Cross Society was chosen to oversee the implementation of the ARCHI 2010 pilot programme. With the support of the coaching delegate in Abidjan, the National Society must identify the health programmes in one of the provinces of the country and set up community health activities in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Central African Republic. The outcome of this pilot initiative will be presented at the Panafrican Conference in Ouagadougou.
A training of trainers programme for volunteers has been developed for epidemics and malaria. The aim is to inculcate the appropriate knowledge in order to improve the community's awareness and set up an epidemiological monitoring system, and to contribute better to the Ministry of Health's "stop malaria" programme in all the countries of the region.
The Regional Delegation assisted the Cameroon Red Cross in organising its seminar. Thirty volunteers received training in subjects related to identifying epidemics, what measures to take in the event of an epidemic, an epidemiological monitoring system, social mobilisation in the event of epidemics and combating malaria. Each trainer is assigned the task of training local volunteers. The task of the volunteers will be to organise information, education, communication (IEC) activities among the local population, thereby helping to prevent epidemics.
In the context of the AIDS programme, a leaflet has been prepared and 5,000 copies printed and already sent to National Society youth sections to support their awareness programmes. They will be distributed in primary and secondary schools at plays and at talks and debates.
The Regional Delegation, the Cameroon Red Cross, the WHO office in Cameroon and the Cameroon Minister of Health took part in World Health Day celebrations, this year on the theme safe blood starts with me. The Regional Delegation also helped the Cameroon Red Cross with awareness sessions on the World Health Day theme and with the blood donation campaign organised at Yaounde I University and the National Society headquarters. The Regional Delegation provided other National Societies in the region with posters to increase awareness of the theme for World Day.
Promotion of humanitarian values
The Regional Delegation provided each National Society CHF 4,250 to set up and promote young people's theatre troops in the context of the Culture of Peace programme and of increased awareness to combat epidemics. The plays tell stories of risk behaviour, how AIDS is transmitted, using condoms, the ravages of war and the advantage of peaceful cohabitation.
The plays put on by the theatre troops both in schools and in public places are thoroughly enjoyed by the audiences, and are an effective way of increasing awareness particularly with primary and secondary school children. About three schools are visited each week.
In line with the objectives of appeal 2000, the Regional Delegation assisted the Congolese Red Cross in recruiting an accountant. This person will enable standard accounting procedures to be adopted and financial reporting and bookkeeping to be improved. The Regional Delegation continued to monitor the setting up of accounting procedures in Cameroon.
In January 2000 the regional Finance and Administration Delegate provided support Congolese Red Cross in Brazzaville in setting up a standard accounting procedures system and training the new accountant.
In view of the capacity development priorities of the National Societies in the region, the Regional Delegation set up a programme to help the National Societies diversify their resources. Four National Societies were chosen (Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Sao Tome and Principe) for this programme.
In April the acting Head of Regional Delegation participated in a training session on governance and Strategy 2010 with the Central Committee of the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This training will help the National Society improve governance and management, better manage the institutional framework and better prepare its development plan in the context of the Federation's Strategy 2010.
The first meeting of the year of Presidents and Secretaries General of the Central African National Red Cross Societies was held in Kribi, Cameroon in February. This meeting analysed the structure of regional cooperation, and set up a new, more appropriate structure. The different decision-making levels (governance and management) will be separated and a system of "accountability" between Secretaries General and Presidents of the different National Societies established in this new structure. The current regional coordination committee will be replaced by an annual meeting of Secretaries General who will be responsible for putting into place the orientations for regional programmes set by the meeting of Presidents. The Strategy 2010 was presented to the meeting, and discussions focused on how to implement the strategy in each National Society. Their participation in the Panafrican in Ouagadougou was also discussed.
The National Societies of Chad and Cameroon held their General Assemblies in March and April 2000 respectively. In Chad, a new national executive bureau was set up and a plan of action approved. In Cameroon, guidelines were worked out for two-year plans of action which the executive bureau must develop and implement.
For the Regional Delegation to implement the full range of planned activities, a complete complement of staff must be funded, recruited, and assigned. A new Head of Delegation will assume functions in June. A DPP/Relief Delegate and a Development Delegate are required as soon as possible. With the strengthening of the Regional Delegation's communication activities a top priority, further support is needed for the Regional Delegation's communications system to facilitate the documentation centre, the regional bulletin, and the Delegation's external relations activities is therefore essential.
At the FAO Panafrican Conference in February 2000, the Federation delegation was comprised of the President of the Cameroon Red Cross and the acting Head of Regional Delegation. The Federation presented a paper on food security and the role of National Societies in this area.
Cooperation with the ICRC is designed primarily to provide institutional support for the National Societies in the region (revision of statutes, and functioning of governance bodies). Each year a joint meeting is organised with the ICRC, the Federation and the National Societies in the region to analyse current programmes and to discuss issues concerning the Movement (Application of the Seville Agreement, and International Conference).
See Annex 1 for details.
Operations Funding and Reporting Department