Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 25 Aug - 2 Sep 1998

Politico-military situation

1. The agreement reached on 25 August in Praia, Cape Verde, include the following points:

  • Public recognition of the Institutions and democratic legality.
  • Maintenance of the respective military positions agreed upon on 26 July 1998
  • Opening of the airport in Bissau
  • Positioning of observation and interpostion forces which format and composition will be decided during the Abidjan meeting.
  • Maintenance and strenghthening of humanitarian corridors
  • Creation of conditions facilitating the return of refugees and assist with the reinstallation of displaced population.
  1. The situation is reported calm throughout the country. Nevertheless radio messages are sent to the population by both sides: on the Government side calling the displaced population to return to Bissau while the military junta asking the population to delay their return for lack of trust in the Government's position.

3. The presence of new contingent of Guinea - Conakry soldiers in Gabu and Bafata areas (their presence was confirmed by UN agencies and NGOs in Gabu and Bafata areas during the UN mission with Mr Julio Grieco on Thursday 20 August) increased the population's fear of returning to Bissau.

4. According to WFP, not more than 500 of the estimated 10,000 displaced from Bissau are still in Prabis, west of Bissau, less than three weeks ago. It is also important to note that most of them did not return to Bissau but moved in the interior of the country for three main reasons: leave an overcrowded area, seek a safer place to live (which is estimated to be the military junta controlled areas) and, finally, move to areas with access to food, water and shelter.

Humanitarian situation

5. The Bandim Health Project in Prabis initiated nutritional survey in the area. The survey conducted early August shows a malnutrition rate of 15.9%. The one completed on 28-29 July (before the movement of population reported in point 3 above and just after the signing of the truce) showed and increase of almost 6% (21.8%) of malnutrition among a sample of children between 9 and 23 months of age. During the same period the study shows an annual mortality rate of 27.3% (6 of 374 children died over a period of three weeks).

6. The ECHO mission of 19 to 25 August 1998 undertaken with the participation of WFP visited the regions of Oio, Bissau, Biumbo, Cacheu Bafata and Gabu and concluded:

  • After almost three months, the humanitarian situation never been catastrophic and did not deteriorate substantially due to a greater absorption capacity of rural families than what was originally anticipated.
  • The population at risk is estimated between 259,000 to 264,000 including 232,000 IDPs, 12,000 refuges from Senegal in the Cacheu region (Jolmete - old case load -and San Domingos - new case load a.i. after the 7 June crisis). 20,000 urban population out of an estimated 40,000 in Bissau that are in need of assistance.
  • WFP should be recognized by all donor community as the appropriate channel to provide food assistance to Guinea-Bissau;
  • Epidemics (cholera, meningitis in particular), due to the large flux of population from Bissau to smaller towns already faced with illequipped health and water system before the crisis, did not materialize. Early preventive measures taken by WHO, UNICEF and NGOs and ICRC reduced the risk.
  • Nevertheless, the health sector suffers from lack of coordination especially among the NGOs. A large number of health kits were provided by different humanitarian organizations who, despite the establishment of a health coordination group, did not materialize into the agreement of a common strategy.

During a meeting held on Tuesday, 1 September, with the key Ambassises of the European Community, the Delegae of the EC made a strong plea for a stronger coordinated approach regarding the funding of humanitarian projects in Guinea-Bissau.

Humanitarian Reponse

8. WFP is maintaining its weekly delivery of 500 MT/week of food, which is now distributed to all regions of the country with the exception of the north western part of the country (San Domingos region of Cacheu area).

9. FAO prepositioned 20 MT of rice, corn and bean seeds, 28 MT of fertilizer, 2,038 agricultural tools of different kind, and phytosanitary product to Bafata in preparation for distribution in Bafata and Gabu regions for September planting season. An additional 5 MT of bean and 400 kg of vegetable seeds will be delivered during the next week and another 20 MT of bean seeds in two weeks time. The military prevented the delivery of 400 liters of fuel and 4 jerry can of motor oil.

10. The Bissau corridor to the interior of the country is functioning normally but the stock of food and other humanitarian items are very limitied in Bissau. UN agencies and NGOs remain cautious to make Bissau the centre of humanitarian operations until conditions are created to live there on a more permanent basis.

11. The Tambacounda - Gabu corridor is operating normally. But the delivery of fuel remain an issue. The Minister of Interior of Senegal has approved the shipment of more than 10,000 liters of UNICEF fuel. But, because of their previous experience, UNICEF requested that the Ministery of Defense also approves the document before the trucks are put back on the road to Gabu.

12. Consulted on the fuel issue, Commissaire Diop of the Ministry of Interior informed OCHA that they provided copies of their approval to the Ministry of Defense and to the Regional Military Command in Kolda, neither of which expressed their approval.

13. In the mean time UN agencies and NGOs are looking into alternative routes (Conakry - Guinea-Bissau or Banjul - Guinea-Bissau) to access that commodity. Also it remains possible to access petrol inside the country at very high cost. A liter a petrol, valued at 250 cfa franc a liter is available on the black market at anything between 800 and 1,250 a liter according to areas of the country.

14. The next negotiating session planned for 12 September in Abidjan will be determinant regarding the re-depolyment of humanitarian staff to Bissu.

15. During the Heads of Agencies meeting held on 1 September, it was decided to fix the next inter-agency field trip the week after the next session of negotiations scheduled for 12 September in Abidjan. The main purpose of the trip will be to establish contact with the military junta inside the country to discuss the participation of civilian participation of the military junta in humanitarian assitance and the extension of the national commission for the coordination of humanitarian assistance to all areas of the country.

16. In the mean time, Mr. Hiro Matsumura, the new WFP Country Director, is visiting Guinea-Bissau from Wednesday to Friday (2 to 4 September) this week to familiarize himself with the programme.

Yvon Madore
Chief Coordination Unit


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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