The year 1999 has been another one of huge upheaval for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), shaken by the conflict which broke out in August 98. The resulting conflagration swept across much of the territory, involving a number of neighboring countries alongside different political and ethnic parties.
Meanwhile, needs for humanitarian assistance resulting from the conflict are extensive. Both displaced and resident populations have been left destitute, devoid of assistance from humanitarian organizations, which were forced to leave the country for several months.
The civilian population's sense of insecurity is heightened by the constant shifting of political and military alliances. Internal hostilities in the DRC, particularly in the eastern provinces, are traditionally the cause of large population movements.
Displacements often take place in the direction of large urban centres, putting pressure on resources and infrastructure. Furthermore, during displacements, family members are frequently disbursed and lose contact with one another and food production, the provision of essential items and the supply of drinking water are often threatened.
The ICRC delegation is located in Kinshasa with a sub-delegation in Lubumbashi, a mission located in Goma and offices in Kisangani, Kalemie, Bukavu, and Bunia.
People Deprived of their Freedom:
Since the beginning of hostilities and with the growing involvement of foreign troops in the conflict, combatants and civilians have been captured, arrested or interned. The ICRC aims to gain maximum access to all places of detention and to people deprived of their freedom, ensuring regular follow-up of individual cases and providing adequate assistance.
The ICRC visits people deprived of their freedom of all categories including prisoners of war (people of different nationalities involved in the conflict), combatants (people detained for their participation in the conflict) and civilians (people interned in various locations by several authorities). The ICRC provides all food and medical needs for civilians, as well as several thousand litres of water on a daily basis.
The ICRC continues to provide a Red Cross message service to restore family links between all categories of persons deprived of their freedom and their relatives throughout the country and abroad.
Assistance to Displaced People:
Despite the levels of insecurity, the ICRC has recently been able to carry out a number of humanitarian assessments. In general, ICRC assistance in response to humanitarian needs is targeted at both internally displaced people (IDPs) and local residents. In cities where the ICRC has traditionally provided non-food assistance, it has been necessary to also provide food assistance. In some areas, the ICRC recently began providing two meals a day to malnourished children and one month food rations for families suffering from malnutrition.
Limited access to clean water for people living in precarious conditions has resulted in the outbreak of Cholera. In response, the ICRC is in the process of constructing two reservoirs in cooperation with the Congolese water board. The ICRC has ensured access to water for other displaced populations by installing water tanks and improved the hygiene situation by digging latrines and repairing schools housing IDPs were repaired and cleaned.
The ICRC activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo cover a wide spectrum of humanitarian activities, such as:
Visits to prisoners to assess their material and psychological conditions:
Between January and September 1999, the ICRC
- visited people deprived of their freedom in places of detention in Kinshasa and Katanga. These included POWs of various nationalities, captured combatants, security detainees, civilian internees and civilians detained for their own safety.
- Up to August 1999, the ICRC provided 468 tonnes of food and 14 tonnes of material assistance and basic medical supplies to persons deprived of their freedom.
- participated tin the voluntary repatriation/transfer of 429 Rwandan and Burundian internees from the DRC to Rwanda and Burundi.
Restoring family links through the Red Cross Message Network:
Between January and September 1999, the ICRC:
- exchanged 36,507 RCMs on behalf of family members separated by the conflict.
- reunited 208 unaccompanied Congolese children with their parents and repatriated 156 unaccompanied Rwandan children.
Cooperation activities with the National Society in areas of food and non-food assistance, support for the National Society's emergency response team, IHL education and promotion, first-aid training, activities to raise health and hygiene awareness and efforts to support Red Cross principles and activities.
Assistance activities for vulnerable people in times of war and peace:
- Up to August 1999, the ICRC, provided 1,008 tonnes of food and 120 tonnes of non-food assistance to internally displaced people in the Kivu regions and 343 tonnes of food and 11 tonnes of material assistance in Katanga region.
Health activities and rehabilitation programmes to assist the war wounded and displaced:
Between January and September 1999, the ICRC:
- supplied health facilities (6 hospitals, 17 health centres and 2 nutritional centres in eastern DRC and 7 hospitals and 4 health centres in government-controlled areas) with drugs and medical supplies
- during fighting in Kisangani, together with Red Cross volunteers, evacuated the war- wounded to hospitals, provided 1 tonne of relief aid and supplied some 20 medical facilities with essential drugs.
Budget and Staff:
The 2000 budget for ICRC Democratic Republic of Congo is SFr 55,052,288.
- 30 expatriates.
- 261 locally hired staff.