Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea: Bata Explosions, Situation Report No. 1, 20 March 2021

Situation Report
Originally published



• On 13 March, UNOSAT released new satellite imagery confirming that at least 603 structures were damaged from the blast at the military camp, of which, 238 appear to be destroyed and 365 severely or moderately damaged.

• Initial environmental assessments identify an urgent need for a localised explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) programme for the civilian population living within a 10 km radius of the epicentre of the explosion. A dedicated campaign has been launched in response.

• The ammunition explosion highlights a potential increase in child labour in Equatorial Guinea.

• Access between Malabo and Bata is identified as the biggest constraint to relief operations. Support from UNHAS services is urgently required.

Situation Overview

The National Red Cross Society’s initial assessments from last week identified at least 3,900 people (780 households) as directly affected, including 400 households (2,000 people) in Nkuantoma Military Camp, 100 households (500 people) in Mondong, 150 households (750 people) in Razel and 130 households (650 people) in Nkuantoma neighbourhood. This figure was corroborated by satellite imagery from UNOSAT issued on 13 March indicating that some 603 structures were damaged, 238 of which were destroyed and 365 severely or moderately damaged. Many people living within the vicinity of the military camps were able to return to their homes 72 hours after the explosions. However, multi-sectoral needs assessments planned to start from Monday 22 March by the UNDAC team and partners will determine the extent of the humanitarian impact.

Due to the nature of this emergency, several technical agencies with expertise in ammunition safety have deployed to Bata under the coordination of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), including Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT) within the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), France, Israel, Qatar, and Cameroon. Initial assessments confirm a high residual risk with unexploded ordnance (UXO) scattered from the blast. At least 78 UXO have been located. Most have been removed but several cannot be removed because of the danger they pose. Map Action has completed an initial mapping/GIS to support efforts for later removal. Destruction of those removed is being worked out.

Safety, security, and protection of civilians remain critical. The assessment teams have observed civilians collecting and selling metal and children playing in dangerous sites. With schools closed, children as young as 10 years old are seen collecting metal scraps for sale at a cost of as little as 40 pesetas – an indication of a potential increase in child labour. This situation demonstrates the urgent need for a localised explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) programme for the civilian population living within a 10 km radius of the epicentre of the explosion. The government has in the meantime taken immediate steps to install site security, limit access to the site and setting up a police post along the main road. An outreach campaign on the residual risk has been launched by MAG/UNICEF in collaboration with UNESCO and UNREC. The military has also put in place a hotline, where citizens can call and report on the suspected ordnance. As of 16 March, the Equatorial Guinean military team responsible for responding to hotline requests is now accompanied by the members of the French EOD team. More than 100 objects have been removed so far.

Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Committee (EMC) continues to meet and monitor the management of in-kind relief aid received from donors and the private sector. The team is working on a strategy that will ensure aid is channelled to the most vulnerable population and waste is avoided. WHO and UNICEF are also reinforcing their logistics capacity and continue to mobilise additional expertise to help the government put in place an effective management of the warehouse and distribution of medical and non-food supplies donated by Member States, private companies and individuals. An inventory of available stock is being undertaken to support a regular, orderly and accountable distribution system for food and non-food items to the affected people.

On 15 March, the UNDAC Team proposed an international coordination structure in support of the national one. The UN Resident Coordinator with the support of the UNDAC Team Leader is maintaining direct contact with the government, while other structures will continue to liaise with technical ministries and institutions as appropriate. An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been set up in Bata. It is chaired by the UNDAC Team Leader and composed of the focal points of the operational UN agencies, the IFRC/Red Cross and NGO representatives. The EOC will focus on the coordination of the proposed humanitarian sectors and three operational cells: EMT Coordination Cell (EMT CC); the Assessment and Analysis Cell (A&A Cell) and the Environment Cell.

Access between Malabo and Bata is the biggest challenge to relief operations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, incountry travel is restricted, with only a couple of airlines operating. United Nations staff is not authorized to use commercial flights for in-country destinations. At present, UN staff is transported with pro-bono helicopter flights provided by Chevron oil company. This service is however coming to an end this week. The resident UN footprint in Bata is very small, with UNICEF, FAO and WHO having a presence prior to the emergency. With the ongoing relief efforts in Bata, following the ammunition blast, an urgent transport solution is required for staff movement between Malabo and Bata.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.