Guinea: ICRC expands emergency-response capacities in unstable situation

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During the violence that shook Conakry in late September 2009 and led to numerous civilian deaths and injuries, the ICRC responded to the most urgent medical needs and facilitated the evacuation of the wounded to local hospitals. These and other activities are reviewed below.

Response to the September 2009 violence

Beginning on 28 September and during the days that followed the outbreak of violence, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Guinea provided emergency medical assistance to more than 350 wounded people in Conakry. More than 220 first-aid workers from the Society were sent to various parts of the capital where they helped the wounded and transported the most serious cases to hospitals (mainly Donka National Hospital).

The ICRC then supplied the city's hospitals with essential medical and surgical items - including kits to treat bullet wounds, masks, gloves and saline solution - along with body bags.

In view of these incidents, the ICRC reminded the Guinean authorities of their responsibility to protect civilians and to respect the Red Cross emblem.

With the help of the Red Cross Society of Guinea, the ICRC undertook to reunite family members separated by the violence, with a particular focus on children.

For more information, see our news release of 1 October 2009 - Guinea: ICRC very concerned by incidents of violence in Conakry.

Drawing on its experience of the September events, the ICRC took part in revising Donka Hospital's emergency plan for the management of a large influx of patients with bullet wounds. The ICRC also supports other hospitals in Conakry and in the towns of Nzérékoré, Kindia and Mamou.

The ICRC's other activities in 2009

Protection and assistance for detainees

The ICRC continued to visit people held in detention centres under the authority of the Ministries of Justice and Security. It also maintained its support, begun in 2004, for the national prison service in an effort to improve management of the country's places of detention.

In 2009, the ICRC:

- made more than 200 visits to 28 different places of detention;

- facilitated the exchange of messages between detainees and their families and between foreign detainees and their country's consular representatives;

- delivered emergency nutrition aid in 24 prisons for three months and 10 other prisons for two months, helping malnourished detainees, pregnant or breast-feeding women, and minors;

- strove to enhance prison health services by overseeing prison medical personnel, identifying the most common diseases, supplying essential medicines and keeping the authorities informed of the situation;

- played a role in improving prison hygiene through a pest-control campaign and the distribution of hygiene items;

- helped increase detainees' access to water and fresh air.

Restoring family links

The need to restore/maintain family links has been considerably reduced by improved political stability among neighbouring countries, the opening of Guinea's borders, the development of communication facilities and continuing repatriations conducted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

As a result, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Guinea now only offer their message service to those most in need - detainees, Guinean citizens held abroad, and children separated from their families.

Emergency preparedness

As part of the city of Conakry's relief-organization scheme (ORSEC) and emergency hospital plans, the ICRC continued its programme aimed at strengthening the skills of hospital personnel (doctors, surgeons, nurses and paramedical staff), improving infrastructure, and enhancing emergency preparedness.

In 2009, the ICRC:

- trained nurses and stretcher-bearers in Kindia, in conjunction with the Red Cross Society of Guinea;

- held information sessions on treating the war-wounded for professors, surgeons and doctors at the Conakry military hospital, the Donka Teaching Hospital and Ignace Deen Hospital;

- ran a seminar on bullet-wound operations for 11 surgeons, and several training sessions for hospital personnel and instructors from the Red Cross Society of Guinea;

- together with the Red Cross Society of Guinea, held a simulation exercise under the ORSEC scheme on how to handle large numbers of wounded people;

- supported 19 health facilities in the capital;

- set up a university training project on war surgery, which is to be launched by the ICRC in 2010.

Water, sanitation and habitat

The ICRC helped the Guinean water board provide drinking water to several towns in the country's interior. In Kankan, 60,000 people now have access to drinking water. In Forécariah, a town of 11,000 habitants, the ICRC upgraded the electrical lines and undertook to insulate two water tanks.

In addition, the ICRC renovated the surgery ward at Kindia Hospital and the operating theatre in Guéckédou Hospital. Lastly, in Conakry, it completed the expansion of the Donka Hospital's operating theatre, the final step in the effort to shore up the hospital's emergency services.

Economic security

The ICRC helped the Red Cross Society of Guinea distribute relief to 4,220 families affected by the 2008 floods in Mandiana prefecture in Haute-Guinée.

International humanitarian law

The ICRC sought to promote international humanitarian law (IHL) and disseminate humanitarian rules to the army, the gendarmerie, the police and civil society.

In 2009, the ICRC:

- worked with the army's general staff to hold 13 IHL awareness-raising sessions for around 860 officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers;

- cooperated with the Ministry of Security to implement an IHL awareness-raising programme for 1,000 new recruits to the security forces;

- held around 20 information sessions for 600 gendarmes and police officers outside the capital;

- set up a meeting with 15 journalists, and supported training for three radio journalists;

- put together an IHL workshop for university professors, representatives of non-governmental organizations and ministries, army instructors and members of the Red Cross Society of Guinea, along with lectures and debates for more than 800 students at six universities;

- created an IHL library meant for students, teachers and researchers.

Cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Guinea

The ICRC worked closely with the Red Cross Society of Guinea in the areas of disaster preparedness, restoring family links and IHL awareness-raising.

In 2009, the ICRC:

- ran workshops on disaster preparedness and restoring family links for 528 members of the Society;

- helped organize competitions between first-aid teams, in which 640 first-aid workers took part;

- supported the training of 16 instructors in stress management and psychosocial support, and 14 members working in the area of needs assessment;

- expanded the Society's radio communications network to include three local committees, and supported the construction of the Society's prefecture offices in Fria and Kankan;

- took part in the process of revising the Society's statutes and regulations, and supported the ceremony commemorating the Society's 25th anniversary.