Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 27 Sep - 28 Oct 1998

UN/NGO Activities for the Period
I. Politico-military situation:

1. On 8 - 9 October, there was renewed fighting in Bissau and then a return to calm. On Sunday, October 18 heavy fighting resumed in Bissau and part of the returning population again fled to Bafata, Bijagos, Oio, Cacheu and Biombo. In the early part of the next week, fighting continued and extended to the eastern part of the country. The military junta took control of (1) Bafata (Wed, 21 Oct.) (2) Gabu (Thurs., 22 Oct PM) and Fulacunda (Friday, 23 October AM). President Vieira called for a cease-fire on the evening of 21 Oct, but fighting resumed on the morning of 22 October. On Friday afternoon, 23 October, Brigadier Asoumane Mane called for a unilateral cease-fire and requested clarification from President Vieira concerning his intentions. The 48 hour cease-fire, due to expire on Sunday evening, was extended over the weekend for an additional 48 hours, to Tuesday PM, 27 October to allow preparations to be made for both the President and Brigadier Mane to meet. At time of writing (29 October, 19:00) there is every indication that the meeting scheduled for Banjul (Gambia) will take place.

2. Special mention should be made of the invaluable role of the Swedish, Portuguese and French Governments and of the Bishop of Bissau, since the renewal of fighting. These representatives have supported the negotiations and consistently acted as go-betweens to foster dialogue between the two parties.

II. Security Issues

3. The UN Inter-agency mission undertaken by OCHA, WFP, WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP (28 Sept.-2 Oct) found that the security situation throughout the country had improved considerably and recommended that the security phase in Bissau city be downgraded from 5 to 4, as well as a downgrading from phase 4 to 3 in other parts of the country.

4. The resumption of new military activity on 8 & 9 October and heavy fighting which began on 18 October made a UN decision to phase down the security impossible. At present, UNSECOORD must clear all UN travel within Guinea Bissau.

III. Humanitarian Impact :

5. As a consequence of fighting between 18 - 27 October, no food, medicine or other humanitarian assistance has been distributed to the population of Guinea Bissau, and the delay in the Mane/Vieira meeting is having direct consequences on the delivery of assistance in all sectors.

6. Although the country counts 350,000 IDPs and approximately 4,000 refugees in Guinea Conakry, the food supply situation is not dramatic as the ongoing harvest has provided resources. However, the needs of 70,000 to 80,000 IDPs becomes increasingly urgent as each day passes, as they are concentrated in Prabis/Cumare lacking food, water and medical supplies.

IV. Humanitarian Response :

7. As cited within the 1998 UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Guinea Bissau, emergency programmes of UN Agencies and NGOs are targeted to assist approximately 350,000 IDPs countrywide and refugees.

8. The Inter-Agency Mission of 28 Sept. to 2 Oct. (see "security issues" above) not only assessed the conditions for UN staff returns to Guinea Bissau but also considered longer-term actions. Specifically, it was agreed that the Government would collaborate with the UN in preparing the 1999 Appeal. Unfortunately, an Inter-Agency assessment mission planned for mid-October could not take place owing to the resumption of hostilities. The mission of 22 October was limited to Bubaque (Bijagos Islands).

Food/Food Distribution


9. On 21 October, the WFP warehouse in Bafata was partially looted by the civilian population, but it is now under the protection of the junta. Arrangements have been made between ADPP and WFP to do a joint physical stock count of commodities in the Bafata warehouse to determine exact quantities.

10. Early in the resumption of hostilities, before the new operation could be approved, WFP borrowed food (maize meal) from its Liberia/Sierra Leone operation in order to respond to emergency needs. More recently, the Ministry of Health has requested that flour be removed from the food basket for Guinea Bissau arguing that rice is the staple cereal. As WFP has over 400 MT wheat flour in stock and is expecting and additional 600 MT, this issue has caused some concern over the last weeks. Due to the emergency situation, WFP is obliged to accept any kind of cereal for the needy and hungry population. At present, WFP is testing the acceptance of the product by beneficiaries and produced some cooking modalities through NGOs to facilitate cooking.

V. Implementation

11. It took three days for 30 MT, (out of 300 MT needed to provide food to the 70,000 IDP in Prabis for one week), for much needed food to reach Prabis at 10 km from Bissau. This was due to the fact that Military authorities objected to its circulation while higher authorities from both the Government and the military junta had agreed to the assistance. In terms of the Bafata warehouse, Caritas has transferred 109 MT out of 300 MT from Bafata to Safim where it is now pre-positioned for Prabis and Cumura.

12. In Bafata and Gabu regions, food distribution needs to be initiated from the stocks currently protected by the junta in order to be properly distributed. WFP is finalising a plan with it's implementing partners, in order to re-start food distribution to IDPs.

13. ADPP has returned to Bafata and is involved in preparing a first food distribution plan for the regions of Gabu and Oio.

14. Until October 27 (Tues.), WFP was finalising transport arrangements for shipment of 600 MT rice from Banjul (Gambia) to Cacheu, Bubaque and Bolama. However, it is not certain when the operation will start due to the bad port conditions in Cacheu and the security situation. The portion of this food distribution planned for Bubaque (100 MTs) will be implemented by Caritas under co-ordination with local communities.

Water & Sanitation

15. ICRC (latrine project) and ENAFUR (the water company contracted by UNICEF) are both back in Bafata and have resumed their activities. OXFAM, is rehabilitating a spring in Bafata and is expected to return by Friday 30 Oct. UNICEF resumed water delivery to the Bafata hospital on 23 October after a 3-day interruption.


16. ICRC and MSF have returned to Bafata and their health-related activities. Military action has interrupted UNICEF plans to support measles immunisation in Gabu area. Following the UN mission to Bubaque (Bijagos Islands) which included the participation of a UNICEF physician, UNICEF and WHO will endeavour to re-route some pharmaceuticals to Bubaque, especially to treat tuberculosis.

17. WHO has a stock of meningitis vaccine pre-positioned in Bissau and in Dakar. However, drugs to treat tuberculosis and malaria remain in Dakar due to the fighting.

18. At the conclusion of the Heads of Agency mission in Guinea Bissau (28 Sept - 2 Oct), the UNICEF and WHO representatives extended their stay until 6 October in order to meet with the Minstry of Health and develop the 1999 health strategy.

19. With the recruitment of a national consultant and mid-wife based in Bafata, the UNFPA programme was carried out in many parts of the country with medical emergency reproductive health kits and other related provisions distributed in Bafata, Gabu, Mansoa, Quinara and Tombali and information, education and communication (IEC) activities to prevent STDs.


20. It is now the harvest season in Guinea Bissau and UN sources report 1998 should be a good harvest given heavy rains earlier this season and the additional manpower supplied by the displaced population. However, food shortages are anticipated in the longer term. FAO developed a plan to distribute vegetable seeds and other agricultural means of production to the greenbelt of Bissau and the northern regions. This plan is now jeopardised as a result of the fighting.

Refugee assistance

Situation update : Senegal

21. The border camps of Salikenie and Mpack have registered an increase in the number of refugees, although the movement is not comparable to that of June 1998. Most of the refugees have been received by host families and others have come to Dakar. As of 22 October, the Thies center registered 761 persons : 65 have recently arrived of which 19 have come from Dakar, 45 from Bissau and one (1) from Cape Verde.

22. Concerning assistance, the refugee assistance programme of Thies is running well, with supplies arriving regularly : 400 litres of oil from WFP; medicines from the Embassy of Guinea Bissau; and food items from from the community of Thies.

Situation update : Cape Verde

23. Currently, 428 Guinea Bissau refugees reside in Cape Verde. The population is distributed as follows :

  • 78 refugees in the center of Jorginho
  • 100 refugees in Trinidad
  • 222 refugees with host families
  • Nearly 30% of this population is under 16 years of age (0 - 16 yrs).

The WFP has provided 3 months food for 420 refugees. The greatest challenge in these camps is the provision of potable water and child education.

Situation update : Gambia

24. Since the resumption of fighting, 110 Guinea Bissau refugees have arrived at Brikima and Soma (between 15 - 21 October) from where they were directed to the camp of Kwinella. Assistance is provided to the new arrivals by UNHCR's operational partner GAFNA. There is a total of about 445 Guinea Bissau refugees in Gambia

VI. Co-ordination :

25. Heads of UN Agencies have been meeting daily in Dakar since 19 October in order to share information concerning security concerns, staff movements, etc.

26. On Wednesday, 21 October, a joint UN/NGO meetings was held to strengthen UN/NGO co-ordination. Staff movements & security, and the availability of reliable points of contact countrywide for information updates within Guinea Bissau were discussed.

27. On 27 October, OCHA initiated the first of a series of individual meeting with NGOs operating in Guinea Bissau in order to improve UN/NGO co-ordination and explore ways that OCHA can facilitate co-ordination of both UN and NGO partners on humanitarian issues.

28. Inter-agency working group meetings grouped around sectoral concerns have also begun this week. The work of the three Inter-Agency teams will culminate in a Consolidated Humanitarian Assistance Plan which will set objectives based on identified needs for 1999, incorporating UN and NGO activities and providing the basis for the 1999 UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Guinea Bissau.

Donor Response :

29. According to information received from the Financial Tracking Unit of OCHA, the UN Consolidated Appeal for Guinea Bissau was 34.2% funded as of October. However, a number of UN agencies in-country have indicated that they will provide updated information to OCHA by early next week in order to better reflect the current situation and gain a better understanding of on-going requirements for 1999.

October 29, 1998

Sources : Unless otherwise specified, all information contained in this report has been collected in-country by OCHA from the UN, NGOs & ICRC network in Guinea.


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