Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 21 - 26 Nov 1998

I. Politico-Military Situation
1. Bissau has been reported calm all week although there was an incident with small arms (automatic fire) on Sunday night, 22 November which lasted for only 5-10 minutes. This was an isolated event;

2. The first meeting of the National Assembly since 7 June (Parliament) is planned for today (Thursday, 26 November);

3. On 25 November, the Executive Secretary of the ECOWAS, Mr. Kouyate, met with President Vieira and the Military Junta to review the process of the deployment of ECOMOG forces. According to Geneva sources, it is unlikely that the Senegalese forces will withdraw from Bissau on 15 December as originally suggested. However, a first group of between 100 and 150 ECOMOG soldiers may arrive early December to prepare the arrival of the ECOMOG contingent;

4. The Government of Guinea Bissau and Military Junta have agreed on 12 as the number of Ministries for the Government of National Unity. (The Government had originally wanted 16 Ministers and 3 Secretaries of State and the Military Junta 10 Ministers). However, President Vieira expressed his desire to choose the post of Prime Minister.

5. A Bissau source reports that as many as 400-500 Guinea Bissau troops trained in Guinea Conakry returned to Bissau .

II. Security

6. The UN Field Security Officer reports that movement of heavy weapons by the Senegalese forces in Bissau (as reported in Situation Report No. 29) was confirmed as part of a routine rotation as opposed to a reduction of forces and equipment.

III. Humanitarian Response


7. Thiès (Senegal) :

Affected population : As of 12 November 848 were registered of whom, 669 were residents; as of 20 November 903 were registered with 713 resident in the camp. In terms of overall movements, 55 persons arrived by road (predominantly from Dakar and Bissau) and 11 left for Dakar and Portugal.

Site visits to the camp :

  • 14 November - Visit ONDH (Organisation de Droit de l'Homme), a delegation from Radda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children), accompanied by representatives of the Ministry of Education of Guinea Bissau to assess the current situation and define specific needs for education materials;
  • 20 November - Visit of the medical team from the Thiès region for a vaccination campaign against polio.

Contributions provided :

  • Second hand clothes and soap were donated to the refugee committee by a Protestant church group;
  • School materials and teaching tools from Radda Barnen and the Ministry of Education of Guinea Bissau.
    NOTE : With this significant contribution including notebooks, books and other supplies and education materials, UNHCR considers that the educational needs for Thiès have been met.

Programmes :

The health, scholarly activities and education programmes have all continued as planned throughout the reporting period and overall, the situation is calm.

Education : For the time-being, students are being taught in local administration buildings which are not in particularly good condition, so given the sufficiency of education materials and supplies, the only outstanding educational requirement is the need to construct or prepare appropriate schooling facilities.

Food : the breakfast service has been re-established by twice weekly standard rations and sugared rice porridge for the other days. Milk is still needed

Visit of 14 November : Special note should be taken of the visit of a delegation of Guinea Bissau parliamentarians, led by the Deputy Fernand Sanka, former Minister of the Interior of Guinea Bissau, accompanied by 3 other deputies, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Guinea Bissau in Senegal and the Commissioner Satako Diop, Coordinator of the Emergency Response Office for refugees of the Ministry of the Interior.

The delegation expressed their satisfaction and addressed their thanks to the Government of Senegal, UNHCR and OFADEC (Office Africain pour le Développement et la Coopération) for their collective efforts which have ensured good living conditions for the refugees. A number of points were discussed, including (1) food (quantity and quality); (2) medical coverage; (3) child education and student training including the possibility of students continuing their studies in Portugal and Europe; (4) the return to Guinea Bissau, especially the necessary conditions anticipated support from Guinea Bissau Government; (5) theft and other infractions and the detention of refugees.

The delegation also communicated to the refugees that their conditions are satisfactory especially compared to condition of refugees in Gambia (for example) or as compared to the local Guinea Bissau population as a whole. The delegation also encouraged the refugees to thank the Government, the UNHCR and the OFADEC, to adhere to Senegalese law and patiently await the proper conditions for their return. The delegation was somewhat concerned that refugees were asking a number of questions pertaining more to an eventual move to European destinations versus an eventual return to Guinea Bissau. The meeting ended with a visit to the Governor of Thiès.

8. Cape Verde :

The UNHCR regional delegation will send a mission to Cape Verde (24 - 27 November) to be led by Ms. Maria Isabel Pinto Valente da Silva. The objectives of the mission are as follows :

  • Evaluation of the general situation of the refugees in Cape Verde and the preparation of a seminar on legal aspects and protection from 14 - 18 December;
  • Discussions with UN agencies concerning the type and quantity of aid activities planned for Guinea Bissau refugees in Cape Verde;
  • Analysis of projects implemented by 2 partners : (1) the Cape Verdian Institute of Solidarity (ICS) and the Red Cross of Cape Verde (CVCV).
  • Visits to the centres in San Jorginho and Trinidade.

Humanitarian Response

9. Issues of Access into Guinea Bissau

  • Caritas was given authorisation last week for passage of two trucks via the Tambacounda/Wassadou/Pirada/Gabu corridor. The trucks, which are carrying 6.7 MT milk powder and 171 cases of medicines, planned to traverse the border on Sunday PM/Monday AM (Nov. 22-23). At time of writing, this delivery has been delayed by new procedures not communicated from Dakar but requested on arrival in Wassadou : a Caritas father has been requested to travel from Gabu to verify that the commodities are indeed intended for Caritas;
  • The UNICEF supply officer is currently in Bafata and will travel to the border to determine why the delivery of 8,000 litres of fuel from Guinea Conakry is still pending. At the same time, UNICEF will attempt to move 2,000 litres of kerosene into Guinea Bissau (from Senegal) which is urgently needed in order to support the cold chain for upcoming immunisation campaigns;
  • Last week, UNICEF obtained permission from Senegalese authorities to bring a vehicle into Guinea Bissau which left 22 November arriving 23 November in Bafata without incident;
  • 25 November, MSF managed to bring in medical supplies which had been authorised, but not without minor complications;
  • 26 November at the Dakar airport, all commodities were removed, opened and examined by Senegalese authorities on the grounds that there was no ECHO representative on the ECHO flight (the second, at 11 AM) bound for Bissau.

10. Food Distribution/Stocks/Pipeline

WFP reports as follows :

Stock Movement During October :

Bafata :Deliveries

  • 2.3MT oil, final stock 64.7 MT
  • 19.10 MT rice, Final Stock 8.337 MT
  • TOTAL delivery 21.4MT, Final Stock 611.31 MT

Additional Stocks

  • Maize Meal 1,175 MT
  • CSB 7,725 MT
  • Wheat Flour 529.38 MT

Bissau (up to 13.11.98) stock reported as :

  • Rice 106.3 MT; Sugar 15.10 MT, Corn Beef 104.2 MT, TOTAL 225.6 MT

BISSAU : note some deliveries have been undertaken in Bissau City but quantities to be reported by National Committee/Bandim Project

Pipeline, including loans from other projects :

Rice :

  • Total 3,567.58 MT anticipated for Nov/Dec delivery;

Beans/Green Peas :

500 MT Nov/Dec;

  • 248 MT Dec/Jan;

Vegetable Oil :

  • 708.76 MT Nov/Dec;

Cereals :

  • Wheat Flour 213.15 MT Nov/Dec;
  • Bulgur 1,388 Nov/Dec
  • 8,300 MT Jan '99


  • 265 MT Nov/Dec;
  • 1,435 MT Jan/Feb '99

11. Health

Summary Situation Report no. 29 reported in detail on WHO medical stocks currently in Dakar. On 26 November WHO plans to move a portion of these stocks to Guinea Bissau as follows : 547 kilos of essential medicines (antibiotics and malaria medicines) valued at US$18,300 by plane for distribution in Bafata, Gabu and Bissau.

UNICEF continues payment of incentive programmes to national health staff and is supporting training sessions for the prevention and treatment of diarrohreal diseases.

The UNICEF immunisation campaign which was disrupted earlier in the fall due to the conflict is now scheduled for 30 November - 10 December and will be implemented in collaboration with MSF. Vaccination cards have already been distributed for 10,625 children, 10,000 pregnant women and 16,500 women of childbearing age.

12. Nutrition

In the November 23 meeting with NGOs, OCHA shared concerns about nutritional requirements in the south following the OCHA/Caritas travel in Tombali/Quinara (17/18 Nov). Caritas said it alone can only cover 20% of nutritional requirements so there is room for other NGO assistance in the sector. After a discussion of the issue of nutritional surveys, it became evident that the crisis had disturbed the application of a standardised nutritional survey system that had existed before the crisis and that there was a need to work closely with the nutritionists of the Ministry of Health who are well acquainted with the policy, method and procedures. This renewed activity is required in order to create a national base line on the nutritional situation.

13. Education

As reported by UNICEF, "a series of meetings have been held in the Gabu/Bafata areas to re-establish parent/teacher associations and mobilise community leaders to reopen primary schools. Meetings were also held with Junta authorities and school directors to prepare some schools for reopening on 23 November. Fifty humanitarian daily rations were flown to Bafata by WFP for a trial in two schools. UNICEF agreed to provide food for teaching. 114 MT of UNICEF HDR in Dakar will be transported to Guinea Bissau by WFP to be used with other basic foodstuffs to encourage teachers and children to return to school."

14. Water/Sanitation

Safim : The UNICEF contractor has now cleaned 5 traditional wells and constructed seven public latrines with another eight under construction. As a result, UNICEF reports considerable improvement in the sanitation situation for an estimated 12,000 displaced, who are mostly from Bissau.

Bafata : The town water supply is currently under repair by a UNICEF contractor. In the meantime, UNICEF continues to supply water to the Bafata hospital by truck from Gabu (60 km. away).

15. Complete Return of UN to Guinea Bissau

The third November UN mission to Guinea Bissau - with the objective to plan the practical details for the full UN return to Guinea Bissau - has recently been completed. To date, all UNICEF national staff have already returned to the duty station and virtually every UN agency has a continued presence in Guinea Bissau, if not a fully re-established base. On return to Bissau, most of the UN Agencies will share a common premises: WFP;UNHCR;UNICEF;UNFPA;UNDP; and OCHA, which will facilitate coordination and make most effective use of collective UN resources. In the meantime, OCHA is planning to set-up a permanent base as of 1 December, initially operating from Bafata due to the phase five rating for Bissau with temporary special arrangement for continuous but not permanent UN presence in Bissau.

V. Donor Missions/Donor Response

16. ECHO

  • 26 Nov. - 8 Dec. : the ECHO regional representative is currently undertaking site visits throughout Guinea Bissau in order to assess activities of NGOs both currently financed by ECHO/seeking finances from ECHO;
  • 4 - 7 January 1999 : Regional visit of Mme. Bonnino : Guinea Bissau/Guinea Conakry/Sierra Leone/Senegal.
  • The new 1,800,000 ECU decision will be announced in detail as soon as all NGO contracts have been finalised.

17. SIDA (Sweden)

Throughout last week, the SIDA Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Hugo Herm, has been on mission in Guinea Bissau.

18. Netherlands

26 Nov. : The Netherlands First Secretary will be travelling in Guinea Bissau with UNICEF/UNDP.

VI. Coordination and Information

19. OCHA Reports on Meetings in Guinea Bissau

A number of important meetings took place in Guinea Bissau which were attended by the OCHA Humanitarian Affairs Officer during his mission of 12 - 20 November :

  • In Buba (17 Nov.); Gabu (19 Nov.) and Bafata (20 Nov.) the Regional Humanitarian Coordination Groups were reactivated. In Gabu and Bafata, the Military Junta was represented for the first time;
  • On 13 November, the UN Technical Mission convened an NGO meeting in Bissau. Participants included Bandim Health Project, Radda Barnen, Enda, OXFAM, Red Cross Guinea Bissau, Catholic Mission, FAO, UNDP, WFP and WHO;
  • On 15 Nov. the UN technical mission met with the Military Junta in BRA to discuss the objectives of their mission and issues of mutual concern.

NGO meetings - UNOCHA/NGO meetings continue on a weekly basis in Dakar with the next meeting scheduled for Monday, 30 November, 11:30 AM.

21. Humanitarian Coordination Working Group

On 25 Nov. the Inter-Agency Humanitarian Coordination Working Group resumed. The group is currently formulating a short-term the Inter-Agency coordination strategy for Guinea Bissau for the period 25 November - 15 January 1999.

22. UN Inter-Departmental Mission to Guinea Bissau (December 1-6)

Preparations are underway in Dakar for the DPA led Inter-Agency Mission to Guinea Bissau. ECOMOG has been invited to participate. The mission will include DPA, DPKO (mines), Human Rights, UNDP, OCHA and the UN Guinea Bissau Resident Coordinator a.i.

November 26, 1998
OCHA/Guinea Bissau (Dakar)

Sources : Unless otherwise specified, information contained in this report has been collected in-country by OCHA from UN, NGOs, ICRC, ECHO/other donor network in Guinea Bissau.


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