Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 16 - 30 Sep 1999

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Unless otherwise specified, all information contained in this report has been collected in-country by OCHA from the UN, NGOs, & ICRC network in Guinea-Bissau
Politico-Military Situation

Relations between Guinea-Bissau and France have returned to normal, Prime Minister Francisco Fadul announced on 17 September following a meeting with the French Minister of Cooperation, reports AFP (19/09/99). France will be invited to renew diplomatic relations, Fadul said in a subsequent interview.

A grave containing the bodies of 14 unidentified persons, some with their limbs tied and others with gunshot wound to the head, was discovered in the municipal cemetery of Bissau on 20 September, reports Lusa (22/09/99). The suspected executions are believed to have occurred early in the conflict last year.

"Elections are a priority above all else", Prime Minister Francisco Fadul said in an interview with BBC French service on 29 September, citing national reconciliation, democratic consolidation and the end of a dictatorial system among national concerns. Fadul has yet to enter the race for the presidency, and declined to comment when asked about the possibility. Relations with neighboring countries are very good, Fadul claimed, and outlined plans to pay a diplomatic visit to Conakry.

Prime Minister Fadul opened the session in the National Assembly to debate the state budget on 29 September. The budget totals 85 billion francs CFA (approximately 14 million USD), reports AFP (29/09/99). The budget was passed on 30 September.

President Sanhá spoke before the UN General Assembly on 29 September, claiming the politico-military crisis which lasted for 11 months was due to flagrant human rights violations, the lack of separation of powers and corruption. Sanhá called upon the UN to help the country re-build and to consolidate democracy by supporting the elections, reports BBC.

It is now possible to phone to the interior of the country. Phone service in regions outside of Bissau has begun again after more than one year of interruption. GuinéTelecom has re-established phone lines in Bafatá and Gabú as of 18 September. However, electricity and water supply remain erratic in Bissau. The power plant does not have the capacity to provide electricity to all neighborhoods.

Elections

Interim President Malam Bacai Sanhá declared his candidacy under the PAIGC banner in the upcoming presidential elections, Lusa reports. Sanhá and opposition leader Kumba Yala are the most prominent candidates at the moment. Yala, of the Partido Renovação Social (PRS), lost in the second round of the 1994 elections. At least seven candidates are in the race, including: Salvador Tchongo formerly of RGB-Movimento Bafatá, now running as an independent; Faustino Imbali, advisor to the Prime Minister; and Fernando Gomes, former president of the national human rights league. Independent Candidate João Tatis Sá, a medical surgeon residing in Portugal, has also joined the race for presidency, reports Banobero.

The last day for political parties to present their candidates was to be on 28 September. The period to register as candidate for the legislative elections was extended for ten additional days, reports AFP (29/09/99).

Voters lists have been completed in Bissau and are currently being posted for the public. Citizens are to verify that their registration number and information is correct to ensure their ability to vote on election day.

Registration agents in the rest of the country have turned in their material as of 28 September. Regional voter registration workers are compiling voter lists manually.

Humanitarian Impact

Internally Displaced Persons/ Refugees

UNHCR reports 191 refugees returned from Cape Verde on 22 August, followed by an additional 90 on 29 August. 232 refugees returned by land from the Gambia on 14 August.

Detainees

On 26 September, Attorney-General Amine Saad accompanied the Representative of the UN Secretary-General, members of the diplomatic community and OCHA in a visit to detainees being held at military detention centers to survey detention conditions and follow their judicial status. Currently, 385 detainees are being held in six locations, of those 117 are being held on a base near the airport, and 46 are detained in Mansoa. The Attorney-General iterated his intention to give conditional releases to those charged with lesser crimes.

Humanitarian Response

Agriculture

Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture joined representatives of FAO, UNDP, WFP and OCHA in a survey mission to the southern regions of Quinara and Tombali from 15 to 17 September. Objectives were to assess the post-conflict conditions and impact of humanitarian assistance, and in part to verify the amount of food reserves following reports of hunger in the area. While rice stocks are low in the region, concerns of potential famine proved unfounded.

In the eastern regions of Bafatá and Gabú, mangrove rice production (saltwater crops) are ready for transplanting. Insect infestation (Trichispa) has caused damage to an estimated 80 to 120 ha. of mangrove rice in the southern regions of Tombali and Quinara.

AFVP (Association Française des Volontaires du Progrès), a French NGO with projects in rural development, conducted a visit to Guinea-Bissau from 16 to 23 September. The objectives of the visit were to re-establish contact with national partners and prepare new projects. AFVP was directly affected by the military intervention last May, the organization lost vehicles, computers, and other project equipment; expatriate volunteers were evacuated. However, AFVP has decided to continue involvement in solidarity with the people of Guinea-Bissau.

Short term projects include promotion of food security in the sectors of Pitche, Pirada and Boé (Gabú Region) and agricultural support in the regions of Gabú and Quinara. AFVP's previous projects received financial support from ECHO, negotiations are underway for further collaboration. Potential partners are FAO, PASP (Projecto Agro-Silvo Pastoril), FCIL (Fonds Canadiens d'Initiatives Locales), IRFED (Institut International de Recherche et de Formation) and local grassroots organizations. Technical project documents can be requested directly from AFVP at afvp@telecomplus.sn

FAO reports livestock pasture conditions are satisfactory due to an adequate amount of rainfall; watering holes are filled. However, anthrax is still prevalent in the north (Bula, Mansoa, and Mansabá), east (Bafatá, Canquelifa) and Gabú, and south (Tite, Bissassema). African Swine Fever was detected during the month of August in southern regions.

Health

A high incidence of malnutrition in Catió (Tombali Region) were among the findings of the joined UN/ Minister of Agriculture mission to the south described above. The situation has been difficult to monitor accurately due to the isolation of the region. Immediate actions recommended by the mission are: to provide therapeutic feeding, and to assist regional and sectoral health centers in monitoring the nutritional situation.

AVSI/ VIDA (Voluntariado Internacional para o Desenvolvimento Africano) is supporting the regional health post, management of essential medicines, and helping to formulate health strategy in São Domingos. The nurse will provide training, management support and new techniques and help in nutritional monitoring. VIDA has also helped with the physical rehabilitation and improvement of sanitation systems of health centers in Ingore, Suzana and the hospital of São Domingos.

The Italian NGO LVIA (Lay Volunteers International Association) handed over medical equipment valued at over US$ 35,000, provided with assistance from ECHO, to the Oio regional health center. LVIA has been active in the region for over 15 years.

WHO organized a training seminar for doctors on case management for cases of severe malaria from 6 to 10 September. From 14 to 17 September, WHO sponsored a seminar on reproductive health for technicians of the Simão Mendes National Hospital. The Ministry of Health organized a workshop on strategies for human resource management from 15 to 17 September, with technical and financial support from WHO.

A UNFPA technical consultant visited Bissau from 16 to 27 September to advise the Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Promotion of Women to restart the family planning and reproductive health section of the National Health Plan (PNDS) 1998 - 2002 .

Mines

At a ceremony held at the Secretary of State for Former Combatants, ten de-mining units were handed over from Germany on 28 September. The Advisor to the Prime Minister on military affairs welcomed the gesture, and noted the creation of an Inter-Ministerial Commission on Mine Action on 15 July. In April and May 1999, seven mine accidents had been recorded in Bissau. The First Secretary of the German Embassy noted mines had been laid, even though parties to the conflict had signed the Ottawa Convention banning the use of land mines. Guinea-Bissau should be vigilant against corruption and hatred, as the price of democracy, he urged. A demonstration of the use of the de-mining units followed.

During a UN mission to the south, anti-personnel landmine was sighted on the road near Fulacunda (Quinara Region). Local authorities were notified, who dispatched a de-mining team from the military base at Quebo, and mine awareness activity coordinated by local NGO ANDES is underway.

Food Aid Distribution/ Food-for-Work (FFW)

WFP and Para Ka Tem (which means "can't stop" in Kriolu), a women's agricultural cooperative in Tite (Quinara region) have begun a food-for-work project. Four areas of work will be supported: composting, sanitation, conservation and preservation of harvests, and the construction of a literacy center. Para Ka Tem was created in 1993 and regroups 72 associations which are involved in rice and vegetable production.

CARITAS sent 10 MTs of rice for distribution in the districts of Boé and Beli (Gabú Region) on 20 September following a mission to the region where dire, but not critical, conditions were reported. The rice is sold at a subsidized price of 5,000 CFA per 50 kg bag, the regular market price is around12,000 CFA francs.

Education

In the regions of Oio and Cacheu, ADPP (Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo) organized a civic education campaign to promote awareness on the voter registration process.

IRC (International Rescue Committee) has expanded its programs in Bissau with the arrival of project personnel to head a youth center in Bairro Militar and to initiate a micro-credit project to promote women's initiatives in creating small enterprises. IRC is also exploring the possibility of project support in the health sector.

Information Sharing and Coordination

The UN System in Guinea-Bissau held a press conference in honor of the International Day of Peace on 21 September. The people of Guinea-Bissau are the primary resource of the country, and economic development is the basis for lasting peace, emphasized the UNDP Resident Representative.

Streamlined reservation systems and information sharing improved passenger sharing on ECHO and UN flights during the month of September. UN flights between Bissau and Dakar were reduced to once a week, on Mondays, while ECHO flights were scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday every two weeks.

Donor Missions/ Donor Response

Following a visit to Cuba, Prime Minister Fadul announced that 116 Cuban doctors are expected to arrive in Bissau as a sign of renewed cooperation, reports AFP (17/09/99).

A joint visit by the Ministers of Cooperation from France and Portugal to Bissau as a sign of close cooperation between the two countries, has been delayed sine die. A government source reports the delay is attributed to the Portuguese Minister's visit to East Timor.

US President Clinton announced the US is prepared to forgive Guinea-Bissau's bi-lateral debt, estimated at over US $6 million, in a speech to the UN General Assembly. A primary condition is the money should go to the most vulnerable groups of the society. The initiative comes following recommendations made at the Cologne G8 summit regarding debt forgiveness for highly indebted poor countries. Clinton urged other countries to do the same.

Contact: Wendy Cue, Information Officer, UNOCHA - Bissau
unocha@sol.gtelecom.gw Tel (+245) 20 35 77/ 20 36 17 Fax (+1 847) 589-1655

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