DRC Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, 15 Jun - 15 Jul 1999

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 Jul 1999

The seven month long peace talks under auspices of Zambia between the parties to the DRC conflict concluded a first significant step- signature of a cease-fire agreement by the Heads of DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia on 10 July in Lusaka. Unable to overcome persisting internal divergences, the two factions of the RCD and the MLC abstained from signing the Lusaka agreement. Subsequently President Kabila issued a decree granting a general amnesty to all Congolese forces fighting the Government since August 1998. The rebel factions announced the offer irrelevant and declined it. As to military operations, they continued at all fronts bringing perceptible strategic gains to the rebels. By mid-July the RCD and their allies reinforced their positions in Katanga and further advanced in Kasai (Mbuji-Mayi appears to be completely encircled), and MLC troops advanced in Equateur province (Gemena and Gbadolite). The military situation on the ground fuels fears among the Kinshasa political establishment that the rebels have adopted the 1996 ADFL tactics of negotiating with the Government and simultaneously pursuing military operations.

The incomplete political settlement of the DRC conflict occurs against the background of a rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation which continues in a geometrical progression. The main critical humanitarian issues of the reporting period are: increased numbers of IDPs in Katanga and Kasai, accelerated flight of refugees from South Kivu, destruction of civilian settlements in North Kivu, pillages in Kasai and Equateur, drought in Kivu and Orientale, ethnic clashes in western province Orientale, sustained refugee influxes in Bas Congo and Bandundu, plight of Congolese refugees in Bas Congo and the weakening economic security of urban populations of Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, Bukavu, Mbuji-Mayi and Kananga.


At the end of July the DRC government attempted to ease some of the tight monetary measures introduced in January 1999. Although the foreign exchange ban remained valid, several large food and fuel importers were given special authorisations to make transactions in hard currency. Most of the observers consider this modification as a half-measure which has no impact on the economy. Conversely, the devaluation of the national currency continued at an accelerated rate (7 FC against US$1 in June; 9.5-10 FC per $1 in mid-July) and bolstered inflationary processes in the market. This trend is especially noticeable in the food market where a 41 percent** Analysis by the economic section of the US Embassy in Kinshasa. increase in prices was observed in comparison to the previous month. Sustained fuel shortages are significantly contributing to the volatility of the domestic market.

The central Government issued a decree in the early July, according to which all disbursements made by public companies must by approved beforehand by a committee consisting of several DRC Ministers. Apparently the Governments attempts to impose tight fiscal restrictions on the level of public expenditures at a time when the state’s main source of revenue- diamond sales, is threatened by the rebel advance in Kasai and the imprisonment of MIBA’s (the largest state owned diamond mining company) entire senior staff.

Relatively well integrated into the economic space of the Great Lake region and being almost self-reliant in terms of food production, the Kivu provinces suffered to a much lesser extent from the sharp economic decline that ravages the rest of the DRC. This relative economic stability was seriously compromised in the beginning of July, when the overall price levels skyrocketed as a result of a massive inflow of the old Zairian currency (NZ) in all rebel held areas. The interventions made by the RCD authorities in the aftermath of the financial havoc, proved to be efficient in the short term and the devaluation was contained by fixing the foreign exchange at 5 FC against $1. Nevertheless, the local marked suffered an exorbitant inflation.

Humanitarian Action and Principles

Access to War-Affected Populations:

In basic terms the access to vulnerable populations in the DRC in June-July can be summarised as follows: (i) in rebel held areas the problem of access revolved mainly around security concerns and (ii) in government held areas access was more often denied due to authorities’ mistrust towards both the relief community and humanitarian action in general.

(i) In rebel-held areas, humanitarian assistance has been requested and for the most part supported by rebel authorities. In part a ploy to gain international legitimacy and internal support but also in the realisation that as a rebel group on the outset of a possibly long and protracted civil strife they lack nearly all means to react to needs, humanitarian or other. However rebel territory now stretches towards more than half of Africa’s third largest country and a willingness on the part of decision makers cannot deflect from the enormous difficulties now faced by relief organisations on the ground. These difficulties vary from the effects of violence to large-scale, chronic crises which make an uneasy match with the very necessary humanitarian action planned for the area.

The return of some 11,000 Rwandan Hutu (including ex-FAR) to Rwanda in the past 6 months is but the best reflection of a more settled environment in North Kivu. Access and monitoring opportunities have recently improved in Masisi (enabling hopefully compromise moves between communities, and appropriate support to resettlement initiatives), as well as in Rutshuru and the northern axis from Goma although past lessons in North Kivu call for a medium-term not instant appraisal of the security. Walikale zone that has become a scene of violent clashes between RCD and guerrilla forces was reportedly inaccessible.

Access in southern areas of South Kivu and northern Katanga is now hampered by the adoption of armed violence by scores of players as their first and last resort to take a local leadership that is still undecided, or else to preserve community interests in a hostile environment. The tactics of guerrilla attacks and retreats displayed by so-called Mayi-Mayi groups, longing for warlord-type of supremacy and considering themselves not bound by traditional rules, have ruthless effects on the local population currently fleeing the now virtually indiscriminate violence of both the Rwandan troops and these warlords. As a result, areas between Uvira and Fizi or close to mining concessions (Kamituga) are highly exposed to sporadic insecurity and massive displacements. Access to populations in these parts is possible only in a haphazard fashion and depends entirely on an excellent understanding of daily changing security. No long-term access can truly be counted upon so the planning of interventions is hampered by the inability to assure monitoring and evaluation. Lack of confidence in security renders the humanitarian community virtually unable to invest in anything but the most basic of interventions: inputs be they to individuals or communities risk drawing unwelcome attention of any number of armed groups.

Large parts of Maniema are said to be plagued by raids and banditry (especially along the Kalima - Shabunda/South Kivu axis), leaving little space for humanitarian action for all the reasons given above. This, coupled with a traditionally weak NGO and UN presence in Maniema, keeps the affected population of this Province largely out of reach.

The Oriental Province has to be split between western and eastern areas. In the latter, access has already been granted by UNSECOORD to UNHCR, where it resumed its care and protection programme for some 60,000 Sudanese refugees. Major towns of the province such as Isiro, Bunia, Buta and Bafwasende are accessible by air (except for the latter).

Equateur is perhaps one of the least accessible provinces as a result of intense military operations. The new modalities of operating in the province are to be envisaged, most probably using Kisangani as an operational base.

(ii) Relief agencies have experienced extreme difficulties in obtaining authorisation to respond significantly to needs of any populations in the north or the west of the country. With the upheavals and difficulties faced by the current government it has been nigh on impossible to identify those within the structure to whom decision making power has been given. Often more than one source of permission is needed, often those who have granted access to agencies are not recognised by local authorities. More often than not access authorisation is not granted in any sort of continual way and most agencies find themselves jumping through the same, time-consuming hoops again and again. Arbitrary arrest of humanitarian workers is also causing a decrease in the ability of humanitarian actors to respond to needs and has caused some agencies to withdraw completely from certain areas. Currently it would be true to say that humanitarian responses are possible, in theory, in Kinshasa and in Bas Congo.

Minorities at Risk

Subsequent to the first repatriation and evacuation of internees of Tutsi (Rwandan and Ugandan origin) carried out by ICRC in mid June, identical exercises were implemented at the end of June and beginning of July. The efforts made by the contact group (ICRC/UN/Embassies) on the minorities at risk began to pay off and closure of the "Tutsi dossier" appears to become more and more imminent. The following is the chronology of the main events related to the repatriation exercise:

27 June : 190 flown to Kigali (ICRC);
28 June : 176 flown to Kigali and 12 to Bujumbura (ICRC) ;
Remaining in Pakita site : 180 persons
25 to 30 left in the site
1 July : 9 flown to Canada
4 July : 109 flown to Kigali (ICRC)
80 left in the INSS site. Most of them want to leave.
290 remaining
* Another 600 Congolese Tutsi, Rwandan and Ugandan nationals are believed to be in hiding in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.

Impact of the Lusaka peace agreement is considered negligible on the level of risk faced by this minority, taking into account the continued fighting and the prominent role of some Tutsi Congolese in the rebellion.

Belgian Government issued approximately 50 visas. Selection process in Brussels in accordance with administrative criteria: direct relatives in Belgium. The embassy counts on assistance to facilitate the exit process (travel documentation, security).

USA finalising agreements with Benin (500 places, HCR site almost ready) and Cameroon (1,000 places, still under discussion). Temporary stay in these transit countries, then departure to USA is considered. Washington said to be keen to finalise departure before July 30. Priority will be given to Lubumbashi and Kinshasa detainees.

ICRC opts for a joint operation with the UN and possibly IOM. Considers that, unlike in Lubumbashi-Kigali’s case, where it had to play a role of neutral intermediary between two countries at war, the new steps (USA, Belgium, Benin, Cameroon) involve countries having normal bilateral relations. Hence the need to bear the task in a collective way.

Follow-up : discussions between ICRC and the HC/DRC are to be held in Geneva on 22 July.

Children in Need of Protection

increased numbers of abandoned or street children in all major urban areas of the DRC prompted UNICEF to support a census of minors in Kinshasa, Goma, Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi and Kisangani. The number of street children is estimated between 12-15,000 in Kinshasa alone. According to SCF/UK, the number of children in need in protection in the urban areas of the Kivu - 10,000.

Preparations of a Pan-African conference on child soldiers (UNICEF/HCHR/Ministry for Human Rights, DRC) to be held in Kinshasa in November 1999 are underway. Meanwhile, significant numbers of children (aged mainly 13-15) were observed during commemorations of the Congolese Independence Day, when thousands of child soldiers marched in military parades throughout the country. Compilation of statistics on child soldiers was a largely complicated task and was inalterably confronted with the absence of interlocutors and any possibility to monitor the process. Undoubtedly, all parties without exception (state and non-state actors) recruited minors into armed forces since the onset of the conflict. The worst of all is the alleged drafting by Interahamwe militia of Hutu minors (left behind by their families, Hutu refugees in 96-97) spread all over the DRC, from Mbandaka to Mbuji-Mayi. A speculative figure of 8,000 such children was put forward by independent sources. Although the veracity of this information is not irrefutable, it reflects the extent of the problem.

UNICEF is currently implementing a three-fold child protection programme consisting of a) Demobilisation (advocacy) of child soldiers; b) assistance to abandoned and street children; and c) assistance to children working in mines (Kasai). In July the World Bank reconfirmed its pledge to support UNICEF’s demobilisation initiatives.

War Prisoners

The engagements made in the Lusaka cease-fire agreements to set free prisoners of war have not been thus far translated into concrete actions. The major obstacle being the rebel’s not signing the agreement. Nevertheless, ICRC continued to have full access to over 2,000 combatants detained in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, Bukavu and Uvira. Access to war-prisoners and possibility to deliver assistance was granted to ICRC both by national authorities and rebels. The Likasi and Kolwezi detention centres remained inaccessible in June and July. One of ICRC’s major preoccupations is the destiny of some 100 prisoners of war detained in Gemena, who were not traceable after the departure of Tchadian troops and this town’s capture by MLC forces.

Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts

In spite of a breakthrough in the Lusaka peace talks, the population of many regions continued to be exposed to violence, indiscriminate barrages, looting and destruction of assets constituting survival basis for communities. During the reporting period atrocities against civilians were committed both by regular armies and insurgent/rebel groups fighting alongside the main belligerents.

4-12 July; Several villages (248 houses) in Gisigari (Rutshuru) and Walikale zones of North Kivu are said to have been burnt during intense fighting between Rwandan army troops and Interahamwe guerrillas. The civilian casualties reported by local sources were not possible to verify.

25 June- 6 July; Gbadolite, one of the largest towns in northern DRC (est. 200,000 inhabitants) was extensively pillaged by retreating troops prior to its capture by MLC forces of 6 July. The entire population of the town is left without medical services and potable water, since all the medical and water treatment chemical’s stocks have been either looted or destroyed.

Critical situation of the population of Kabinda, (eastern Kasai) where the population is caught in the midst of fighting and only a small group could flee the town which has become a battlefield since mid June.

Intensive looting by retreating military is also reported in several villages of western Kasai.

Internally displaced Persons

Estimated number of IDPs
DRC Refugees in neighbouring countries
Katanga- 150,000
Eastern Kasai- 60,000
Equateur- 100,000
Maniema- 20,000
North Kivu- 160,000
Orientale- 70,000
South Kivu- 195,000
Tanzania - 90,000
Uganda- 6,000
Zambia - 37,000
Rwanda- 30,000
CAR- 13,000
Total IDPs- 755,000
Total DRC refugees 176,000
Population displacement (195,000 persons) in South Kivu (August 98- June 99). Map by OCHA DRC & WFP Bukavu

Internal and external dislocation of populations affected by the military operations continued from mid June through mid July. A significant increase in IDP numbers was observed in Equateur, Eastern Kasai and Katanga provinces as well as in Walikali and Rutshuru zones of North Kivu and Uvira-Fizi zone.

The populations residing along the frontline fled fierce fighting and headed South-westwards (mainly into Kasai and central Katanga). The intensified fighting in the northern front (Equateur) created new waves of external displacement (to Central African Republic) and sustained the population movements across DRC - Zambia border. On the other hand, renewed and intense insurgency and counter-insurgency in the Kivus caused further local displacements and prompted thousands to stream across DRC-Tanzania border.

Accessibility of IDP (estimated 755,000) has somewhat improved in the beginning of July. Relative improvement in access in South Kivu allowed the relief community to identify the main locations of some 195,000 IDPs (see the map above). A similar exercise is currently being organised to evaluate the IDP communities in both sides of the frontline in Katanga province.

Nation-wide Polio Vaccination Campaign

Chapter 6, the Lusaka cease-fire agreement:
Subsequent to agreement’s entry into force, a co-ordination mechanism between the Congolese parties will be put in place, which will permit to design and implement nation-wide operations of common concern, notably in the fields of Public Health (e.g. national vaccination campaign)...
In accordance with the resolution of the World Health Assembly, WHO and UNICEF in conjunction with local and international partners launched a campaign aimed at the eradication of polio in the DRC by the year 2001. The first phase of this nation-wide campaign (with a total budget of over US $13 million** funding by USAID, CDC, UNICEF National Committees, Rotary International/Belgium, WHO, and the DRC Gov.,) coincided with the outbreak of the war in August 1998. The hostilities prevented the full-scale implementation of the programme by reducing its extent to 6 provinces of the DRC (January 1999). In order to achieve any significant progress in the polio eradication, new immunisations campaigns must be carried out targeting all 11 million children of the DRC aged 0-59 months. UN and other humanitarian partners appealed to belligerents since early January 1999 to facilitate the implementation of this humanitarian imperative by committing themselves to days of tranquillity during which three consecutive vaccination campaigns (August-September-October 1999) will be implemented throughout the DRC. The preparations of this large campaign included active lobbying with national and RCD authorities, extensive training of medical and paramedical personnel (all 306 health zones), dispatch of immunisation supplies to all provinces and establishment of some 16,000 vaccination bases in all provinces since December 1998. The reports from war affected zones indicate that the logistical constraints might become even a bigger obstacle than the military operations. The protracted insurrection in Kivu is perhaps the biggest constraint at this moment, despite the fact that some of the Mayi-Mayi warlords have already agreed to respect the days of tranquillity and allowed health officers from their areas of control to attend the WHO organised workshops in Nairobi and Kampala. Additional complicating factor is the intensification of fighting in northern Equateur (Gemena and Gbadolite- both are important logistical bases for the campaign) and sustained high level of military activity in Northern Katanga. Attempts will be made to readjust the implementation modalities for Equateur by using the Kisangani base. A matter of deep concern are children in the displaced communities in Katanga, Kasai and Equateur (approximately 300,000) as well as very isolated communities in Maniema whom it will be almost impossible to access. In any event, the organisers of the campaign are determined to stick to initially planned dates given the comparative simplicity of the first phase (mid-August) which does not include deployment of large quantities of cold chain facilities. The organisers, therefore, expect to attain on average 80-85 percent of the target group in mid-August, i.e. roughly 9.4 million children under five.

Epidemiological Situation

In comparison to May and especially June 1999, the epidemiological situation somewhat stabilised during the reporting period. With some degree of certainty the outbreak of Marburg (haemorrhaged fever) in Orientale province can be declared over. Epidemics of cholera are still reported in the majority of the provinces of the DRC. The analysis of the trends, such as reduced mortality rates (on average 3-7 percent) suggest however, that its peak for the dry season is over. The areas most affected by the epidemic of cholera are Ituri district of Orientale province (highest mortality), Uvira, Fizi zones of South Kivu, Walikale zone of North Kivu, Kikwit (Bandundu) and Kinshasa. Anti-cholera campaigns are conducted by MSF Belgian and Dutch branches, MEMISA, UNICEF and WHO. The response and resources available locally are adequate at this stage. Morbidity due to meningitis is on the rise in all provinces where a systematic epidemiological surveillance is in place. While this pathology was rather common in eastern provinces, it is relatively new for the central and western DRC and rapidly spreading towards Kinshasa and Bas Congo.

Food Security

Access to food and maintenance of adequate nutritional status of the population of Kinshasa continued to decline in June-July. Malnutrition increasingly becomes one of the most serious public health problems and therefore one of the leading causes of death, directly or indirectly. The main factors affecting the household food security were the hyperinflation and inadequate flow of foodstuffs into the market. According to Diocesan Bureau for Medical Research (BDOM), additional cases of malnutrition were registered in all 39 therapeutic and 80 supplementary feeding centres of Kinshasa. Some 1,169 severely malnourished and 1,998 acutely malnourished children** these figures represent on average 80 % increase compared to the same period of 1998 are currently being treated in church sponsored centres. According to the same source, the global malnutrition among children in the DRC capital reached 10.5% level, which represents 125,000 children. Emergency interventions are required when the indicator of malnutrition exceeds 10%. The number of severely malnourished children is estimated at 25,000 (2,1%) in Kinshasa alone. A global food survey conducted recently in Kinshasa also revealed that only 17 % of households possess minimum food stocks (3 days) and that 13,6 % of households have only one meal a day.

According to a FAO sponsored analysis of food supply trends in the DRC a further dwindling of the food market (staple food) is anticipated over the forthcoming months since the stocks in Bandundu (the main supplier) are said to be at a very low level. The forecasts for the corn harvest are rather optimistic which can substitute the shortages of other staple food items in the short-run.

As a result of intense military operations, accompanied by systematic looting and isolation of food producing and consuming areas, the food security situation in Kasai dramatically deteriorated in June-July. Rapidly increased prices for food commodities are attributed to blockade of the main feeder road in Kasai (Mweka-Demba-Kananga) and a panic created by the proximity of military operations.

Food security situation remains relatively stable in Kivu, where the overproduction of some food items, weakened purchasing power of the population and the highly stretched cash flow create an equilibrium between the demand and the supply.

Relative stability is being observed in Lubumbashi food market which is also confirmed by nutritional surveys (2,8% acute and 0,8% severe malnutrition among children).

Of 350,00 identified vulnerable persons (including IDPs) only 40,000 received food assistance in June and July. (WFP, FAO, ICRC and BDOM)


Country of Origin
Angola incl. Cabinda
Republic of Congo
Refugee Crisis in Bas Congo Province

Critical situation in Bas Congo is defined to a great extent by incremental influxes of Angolan and Congolese refugees and intensified fighting along Angola- DRC border.

The worst fears of relief agencies as regards an eventual massive arrival of Congolese IDPs from Pool are now materialising. After having slowed down in mid-June, the influxes of refugees from the ROC became more frequent and intense in character (on average 300 new arrivals from three different entry points a day). The health and nutritional conditions of newly arriving refugees vary dramatically from those of refugees who had arrived in May-June. It appears that the weakest and poorest IDPs were left behind, unable to make their way to the DRC. The conditions of the newly arrived refugees were found appalling and comparable to those of Rwandan refugees in Tingi-Tingi camp in 1996. Mortality due to malnutrition both among adults and young children is high. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the refugees are unwilling to settle in Bas Congo even for a short period of time required for their stabilisation. In a bid to abate the high mortality and morbidity rates among refugees HCR is currently dispatching nutritional rehabilitation supplies. Freshly arrived maze flour (port of Matadi) and locally purchased oil are being urgently dispatched to the refugee sites by WFP. MSF deployed an additional medical team to start the screening of the new arrivals. It is feared, however, that given the size of the problem (the great majority of arriving refugees need intensive care and institutionalisation) and the degenerating trends in the health of new arrivals will inevitably keep the mortality rates high.

The situation of some 20,000 Angolan refugees in the province is said to be stable. However, the proximity of fighting (literally on the DRC/Angolan border) causes security concerns. The Angolan troops have been reportedly deployed in the border areas of the province to launch counter-offensives against UNITA. The fighting is preventing the asylum seekers from entering into Bas Congo and prompts them to head towards the Bandundu segment of the DRC/Angolan border. According to missionary sources, some 10,000 Angolans have already arrived into the border areas of Bandundu since the beginning of July. HCR is to shortly field an assessment mission to Kahemba -Tembo area.

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