1999 Mid-Term Review and Revision of United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Guinea-Bissau

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 22 Jul 1999

JULY 1999

The outbreak of fighting in Bissau between 31 January and 7 May 1999 in Bissau, ended with the ouster of President Vieira and a significant alteration of the political landscape of Guinea-Bissau. The Abuja Agreement has somewhat changed by the departure of the ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces. The international community is showing ambivalence towards the country. As a consequence, swift disbursements of large part of funds pledged during the 5 May Round Table held in Geneva is put in jeopardy and is delaying the economic recovery process. In addition, the airport and banks remain close; salaries are unpaid, impinging further on the economic normalisation.

A total of 597,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Notwithstanding the tense political situation that still prevails in the country, provision of humanitarian assistance programme in Guinea Bissau may be terminated by the end of the year 1999. The form of assistance varies according to the categories of beneficiaries and is tailored according to the needs identified through assessment missions completed in the last three months.

Funds required to complete the humanitarian assistance programme in Guinea-Bissau are valued at US$ 4,502,958, which is a substantial reduction compared to the initial request. It can be explained by the following factors: There is no need for additional food. The small amount of food donated during the period of July 1998 to February 1999 had been distributed due to problems of access to and inside the country. As a result, the balance in- country is sufficient to meet the requirements until the end of December 1999. This includes free-food distribution to 245,000 people in Bissau in August 1999, as required. Bilaterally funded developmental programmes have been frozen during the period of the conflict. Few of them have been reactivated with adjustment to the current situation thus, responding to some of the humanitarian needs. This is the case in water/sanitation, health and education. Consequently, projects of these sectors have been revised downward. The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) applied some of the funds of their regular budget to humanitarian assistance programmes for the period January to May 1999 due to zero percent response by donors to these projects in the 1999 CAP.

In agreement with and participation of the Government of National Unity, the United Nations (UN) Agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are applying a decentralised implementation strategy by working closely with the regional directorates in all sectors. This facilitates a participatory approach of the beneficiaries themselves as exemplified in agriculture, health, and sanitation projects.

For the remaining period, priorities include: funds to successfully secure a second phase of the 1999 agricultural campaign, support to the regional strategy for humanitarian assistance re-organising the Government’s national capacity, assistance to the refugee programme for Guinea Bissau and re-activation of key social services until rehabilitation programmes start.


The humanitarian assistance programme was formulated on the assumption that the Abuja Peace Agreement, signed on 1 November 1998, would hold.

On 31 January, a renewed outbreak of fighting lasted until 3 February. This resulted in 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled mainly to Prabis, Cumura and Safim. IDPs returned slowly, but were still wary, a portion decided to re-settle in villages or rural areas. Some have not returned because their houses were destroyed or looted during the fighting.

On 6 May, gunfire and shelling burst out in Bissau again, causing a large population to flee immediately. The fighting lasted less than 24 hours, and resulted in the ouster of President Vieira. Fighting resulted in almost 100 civilian deaths and over 250 wounded. The large majority of persons displaced by fighting returned following the surrender of Vieira’s forces.

Although the conflict ended quickly, it significantly altered the political landscape of Guinea-Bissau; the extent of its impact on humanitarian assistance has yet to be fully measured.

Security conditions in Bissau improved following the deployment of ECOMOG in February. ECOMOG took control of heavy weapons and deployed in key areas; initiated the marking of mined areas in Bissau where an estimated 20,000 mines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) have been laid; and controlled the Airport and Port of Bissau. ECOMOG withdrew from the country on 8 June.

Key political events:

  • Government of National Unity (GUN) was sworn in on 21 February 1999.
  • Popular National Assembly met on 12 April to review the findings of the Parliamentary report on arms trafficking; President Vieira was accused of crimes of omission.
  • Fighting on 6 and 7 May led to the ouster of Vieira. The new interim President Sanhá was inaugurated on 14 May.
  • Transitional Political Pact was signed on 21 May, prolonging the Abuja Agreement and allowing for interim presidency until elections are held on 28 November.
  • On 6 April, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution establishing the UN Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS). The Secretary-General named his Representative on the same day. Status of deployment is being revised following the withdrawal of ECOMOG and changes in the GUN.
  • National forum calls for Vieira to be tried for mis-rule, arms trafficking and treason. Vieira left the country for health reasons on 6 June. Political tension surrounding his request for political asylum persists.

Socio-economic elements:
  • Emergency Round Table sponsored by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resulted in a pledge of US$ 200 million, of which US$ 90 million is still pending.
  • Central bank opened on 20 April. Two commercial banks are still closed.
  • Airport remains closed.
  • The price of rice rose to over 20,000 franc of the African Financial Community (CFA)/ 50kg bag. The Government set the price to 12,000 CFA until elections.
  • Cashew nuts harvest is underway with satisfactory production. However, in some areas of the country, cashew nuts are sold at a lower price.
  • Maritime and land commercial deliveries have resumed from neighbouring countries.
  • Civil servants received two months salary (January and February 1999).

Factors of concern regarding the peace process:
  • Security along northern border. Renewed fighting by the end of April in Casamance region.
  • Untimely funding may generate further social instability and risk of unrest.
  • Disarming and quartering of troops, control of weapons in circulation.
  • Monitoring of population census, political campaigns and preparation for elections.


The evolution of situation stated above has changed the typology of beneficiaries who include IDPs returning to Bissau, residents and rural-affected population.

  • The latest population census indicates that there are 245,000 people in Bissau, most of whom remained without productive activities or income over the last twelve months.
  • As many as 50,000 to 60,000 IDPs have decided to settle down definitively in rural areas where they sought refuge.
  • As a result of the rural population’s support of the IDPs between June 1998 to February 1999, the family resources were depleted. There may be as many as 90,000 in need of assistance.
  • Rural population who could not produce significantly during the last season due to the conflict in the outskirts of Bissau, or along the border with Senegal. This may represent 30,000 to 40,000 persons.
  • Rural population whose harvest was insufficient in 1998/99 season due to a combination of natural and war-related factors. This category is most common in the South and may be as many as 150,000 people.
  • 12,000 soldiers should be demobilised and will benefit from the emergency assistance provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) while further assistance will be provided under the Round Table programme.

However, the form of assistance has changed during the period of this review. Humanitarian assistance varies according to the categories of beneficiaries and is tailored according to the needs identified. In Bissau, the population has been receiving food, and those whose houses were damaged, in addition, are receiving construction material. War-traumatised children benefit from specialised programmes, through UNICEF and NGOs. The project on mine-awareness put together by UNICEF and NGOs is aimed above all at the population of Bissau and eventually for those along the border with Senegal. Most of the beneficiaries in the regions are assisted through Food-for-Work (FFW), Food For Training (FFT) and Food For Growth (FFG), put together by WFP in collaboration with NGOs and local communities. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and NGOs likewise assist in providing agricultural inputs. All categories are being considered for social services such as health, water and sanitation, and education where such needs are assessed.

Where and when possible, the beneficiaries are involved in determining needs, providing assistance and monitoring of implementation. This is particularly the case for FFW, and FFT projects, community school constructions, which have been unequally developed for the agricultural project. For example, the cleaning of the city of Bissau involved both the City Council and population in the barrios; the mine-awareness programme was developed with the participation of local NGOs and contributions of the national radio station. The refugees of Senegalese origin in Jolmete are particularly active in defining, planning and implementing programmes that concern them.

A Government of National Unity is in place. However, financial, material and transport resources are seriously short in supply, making involvement of each ministry's staff rather difficult. With the Government's agreement, emphasis has been put on a regional approach with the participation of national staff, whenever possible.


The stated long-term goal of the Appeal for Guinea-Bissau is consistent with a conflict of short duration (11 months as compared to many conflicts in Africa which may last between 2 to 20 years). The goal was "to facilitate the speedy return of the most affected populations to a normal situation while simultaneously assisting the new Government of National Unity to assume its responsibilities for the management of the humanitarian assistance programme".

The main factor affecting the implementation of the stated long-term goal has been the renewed outbreak of hostilities between 31 January and 7 May 1999, resulting in the overthrow of President Vieira. The return of IDPs to their place of origin was slower than expected up to May.

In terms of assistance to the Government of National Unity’s management of the humanitarian assistance programme, slow but significant progress was made to improve capacity at national and regional levels. The Prime Minister confirmed the Comite Nacional de Solidariedade e Ajuda Humanitaria (CNSAH) in its coordinating role for humanitarian issues, under the chairmanship of the Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs. A CNSAH team initiated visits to Regional Commissions in late January. The 31 January fighting delayed completion of these visits. However, it has produced good results, and has helped to focus the Government’s role and responsibilities as the humanitarian situation changes.


Executive Summary

Implication of Changes on the Humanitarian Programme

Beneficiary Perspectives on the Humanitarian Programme

Analysis of Progress Made and Modifications of Goals and Sector Objectives

Progress in Sectoral Objectives and Modifications of Goals

Summary of Priority Gaps in Humanitarian Response

Priority Gaps by Sector



Annex I: Financial Summaries 1999 UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal

Note: The full text of this appeal is available on-line in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format and may also be downloaded in zipped MS Word format.

Extra printed copies of this appeal are available by writing to:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Complex Emergency Response Branch (CERB)
Palais des Nations
8-14, ave de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: (41 22) 917 1234
Fax: (41 22) 917 0023
E-Mail: info@dha.unicc.org

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