Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 08 Feb 1999

Situation Report
Originally published
1. In this note, we wish to address issues related to the Field Coordination situation and highlight points where CER/CAP in Geneva may be of some help. The note will address the situation as it develops since last Sunday, 31 January, when the conflict broke out again in Bissau. We will limit the situation analysis to the humanitarian impact since six reports have already been produced last week providing the politico-military aspect and detailed account of humanitarian impact and response.


2. The suddenness of the conflict last Sunday resulted in difficulty to assess the dimension of the impact on the Bissau population. On Monday, 1 February, because of the limited amount of people seen in the city, it was immediately assumed by most UN and NGO local staff that most people had left the city. Last Thursday, after a new cease-fire was agreed upon, a quick assessment in town undertaken by ICRC, UNICEF, CARITAS and national members of the National Commission for Solidarity and Humanitarian Assistance suggest that about 128,000 people stayed in Bissau throughout the shooting period and hid in any concrete building they could find in the city.

3. From data available at this point, there are 248,000 people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. In addition to the 128,000 people stranded in Bissau. there are 50,000 people in Prabis, 30,000 in Cumura, (both places west of Bissau) 12,000 in Safim, 2,000 to 3,000 in Mansoa/Bissora, (both places north of Bissau) 4,500 to 5,000 in Takir , 10,000 in Cumere (east of Bissau). There is no information available about the number of people displaced in the southern part of the country. This should become available early in the week.

4. The conflict erupted the day after results of laboratory test, done in Dakar by MSF in collaboration with WHO, confirms that a region of Bafata is faced with an epidemic of meningitis. Another focal point is suspected in the Oio region. This later place was not confirmed by laboratory test because it was not possible to carry sample for analysis. But according to doctors in Bissora, the symptoms suggest there are cases of meningitis as well.


5. Coordination effort are in place in Bissau (the National Commission for Solidarity and Humanitarian Assistance with the participation of nationals from ministry of health, local staff of UNICEF, FAO, CARITAS, Bandim project, ICRC - who maintained two international staff in place - and the local Red Cross). Until Wednesday morning, two UN international staff - the Director of WFP and the OCHA Humanitarian Officer - stayed in Bissau as well. At UNSECOORD's request they withdrew from Bissau to Bafata from where, by radio, satphone and messengers, they keep hourly contact with Bissau.

6. In Bafata, the non-essential UN local staff from UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, as well as international staff from the UN (OCHA, WFP) and NGOs (CARITAS, MSF, ADPP, Evangelical Church) constituted a coordination committee to address monitoring of the situation and immediate humanitarian response. Reports started to be provided by e-mail from Bafata to Dakar. Bafata is established as the centre of operations for the ocuntry.

7. In Dakar, the DMT meet at least daily since last Sunday to review the situation and address policy issues. As of Monday, 1 February 6, 1999, there has been three meetings with the NGOS.

8. The UN flights resumed to Bafata, starting Saturday, February 06, 1999. The first flight carried a first 20,000 doses of vaccines against meningitis as well as other medical supplies provided by MSF. A second flight is planned for Monday with cargo only, including an additional 25,000 doses of vaccines as well as medical supplies for 300 war wounded for distribution to the two key hospitals in Bissau and Canchungo. Some medical supplies are likely to be provided to health centres in Prabis, and Cumura. Thereafter, regular flights to Bafata will be scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays. Flights to Bissau will only start after and on approval of UNSECOORD based on recommendations of the FSO.

9. ECHO plane flew to Bubaque twice on Friday to deliver one MT of medical supplies for 200 war wounded. The stock will be transported from Bubaque to Bissau on a zodiac.

10. On Friday, a convoy of two vehicles, led by WFP and OCHA, left Bafata to go to the Bissau city limit to hand out to UNICEF local staff who accompanied by ECOMOG delivered a stock of medical supplies as an immediate measure while other medical supplies, provided by MSF and ICRC, are delivered to the central hospital "Simao Mendes" in Bissau.

11. During the delivery of the medical supplies to the airport on Friday, OCHA humanitarian officer and WFP Director met with Major Verissimo Seabra (number 2 of the military junta) and the Prime Minister to negotiate access - the plane to Bafata and a boat with food to Bissau - and to meet with representatives of ECOMOG to initiate negotiations for humanitarian corridor from Bafata to Bissau until such time security permits a return of international staff.

12. WFP confirms that, following the granting of authorization by the junta, the government and ECOMOG, for a ship to berth at Bissau port, 700 MT of rice will leave Banjul on Tuesday, February 9, 1999 to reach Bissau on Wednesday.

13. Making use of food stock available in Bafata, WFP and CARITAS undertook, on Friday, a 5 kg-food ration delivery to the population in need in Safim. UNICEF and MSF joined effort to assure water distribution to the IDP population in Safim.

14. Using the stock still available in Bissau, a delivery of food is on the way to the population of Bissau. A plan is also being worked out to initiate a first delivery to Prabis and Cumura.

15. A Security and Humanitarian Mission is starting Sunday, February 7, 99 in Bissau. The purpose of the mission will be to assess the security situation with a view to prepare the return of essential staff to Bissau, and to complete the assessment of the humanitarian situation, review the mechanisms in place to provide humanitarian response, to negotiate access from Bissau to Cumura and Prabis, to verify the conditions and make arrangement for the arrival of the ship next Wednesday.

8 February 1999

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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