Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 361 for 24 Feb 98.2.24

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 361 for 24 Feb 98.2.24

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 361 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 24 February 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Army officers arrested over Kapalata deaths

A number of army officers have been arrested over the deaths of at least 380 inmates from malnutrition and disease at Kapalata military camp in Kisangani, eastern DRC. Reuters reported state media as saying yesterday (Monday) the officers would face charges of illegally selling off food destined for Kapalata where as many as 3,000 young "Mai-Mai" fighters joining the regular army were based until last week. "All the officers and instructors of the Kapalata camp implicated directly or indirectly in the embezzlement of food destined to the young Mai-Mai have been arrested and transferred to Kinshasa to answer to the military tribunal," state television said.

The minister of health had earlier called for the closure of the camp, but according to humanitarian sources, several hundred recruits were still to be transferred to identified sites or the general hospital in Kisangani.

MSF warns of cholera epidemic in Katanga

According to MSF, a cholera epidemic in Kikondja 'health zone' in the southern province of Katanga has claimed 185 lives since mid-January. The relief agency told IRIN today (Tuesday) that it has recorded 2,000 cases of the disease, with fatality rates peaking at 20 percent in late January. The outbreak, however, now appears to be under control, with only one death reported last week.

Sanitation is "very poor" in what is a swampy area close to Ulemba Lake. Access is also difficult, MSF said. Cholera is endemic in the region, with outbreaks reported at Bukama and Mele Menkulu in the past weeks. Humanitarian agencies said the disease was also spreading up the Congo River.

RWANDA: UNICEF warns over plight of child-headed households

An estimated 300,000 highly vulnerable children are struggling for survival in Rwanda in impoverished child-headed households, UNICEF warned yesterday in a press release. "They are the most marginalised of the poor in an area of almost unimaginable suffering and want," UNICEF's Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, said. A report prepared by World Vision found that children in child-headed households are especially at risk from abuse and exploitation. Three out of four of the households are headed by girls. Some 95 percent of the children have no access to health care or education. They also face chronic food shortages. However, according to the report, the very existence of child-headed households "has barely been acknowledged" by Rwandan society. Bellamy noted that given the government's meagre resources, "we need an urgent, across-the-board effort, from the grassroots up" to address the problem.

UNICEF is currently working with seven Rwandan and international NGOs which are assisting some 16,000 children in child-headed households. The assistance includes vocational training, payment for school fees and educational supplies, and help in forming associations and staring up small enterprises.

Torrential rains kill five in Gitarama

Five people have died as a result of torrential rains in the central Rwandan prefecture of Gitarama, state radio said yesterday. Some 130 homes were also destroyed and several hectares of agricultural land ruined. The authorities have distributed tents to the homeless.

ANGOLA: Fighting escalates in Cabinda

Portuguese Renascenca radio yesterday reported intensified clashes in the Cabinda enclave between the Angolan army and the separatist Frente de Libertacao do Enclava de Cabinda (FLEC). According to the broadcast, monitored by the BBC, fighting has spread from an area 70 km from Cabinda city to the outskirts of the provincial capital.

BURUNDI: WFP reports low levels of relief food stocks

According to WFP, food distributions in Burundi continue to target only the most vulnerable groups, due to low levels of relief food stocks in-country caused by transport constraints. At these reduced levels, current stocks of cereals, oil and salt, and expected arrivals of milk, sugar and CSB, should cover requirements through March, but there will be a shortage of pulses for these priority programmes, as stocks remain blocked in Tanzania.

TANZANIA: Logistical problems force cut in refugee food rations

Despite the efforts being made to ensure the delivery of food to the 343,000 refugees in camps in Tanzania and to the 1.6 million Tanzanians facing food shortages due to drought conditions and floods, persistent logistics constraints do not allow the continued provision of full rations, a WFP report warns.

WFP and UNHCR have agreed on a plan of action concerning the refugee programme, which includes: a reduction in the food distribution cycle, from two weeks to one week; a 50 percent reduction in the cereal and pulses ration with immediate effect, with adjustments to be made according to availability. According to WFP, in case reduced availability of cereals and pulses results in rations lower than 1,200 to 1,500 Kcal for three consecutive weeks, a double ration of blended food will be provided.

EU provides US $46 million for road repairs

The EU is to provide Tanzania with US $46.2 million to rehabilitate 2,700 km of flood-damaged roads in the southern regions of Iringa and Ruvuma. The funds will enable routine, periodic and emergency maintenance works to be undertaken, the EU said in a statement yesterday. The funds would also provide for the development of a local contracting industry able to complete road maintenance contracts efficiently, AFP reported.

UGANDA: Economic growth expected to slow as result of torrential rains

Crop damage caused by the current heavy rains is likely to slow Ugandan economic growth this year from a projected seven percent to five percent, according to a senior ministry of finance official. The news agency IPS quoted the unnamed official as saying the agriculture-based economy will be hard hit by the anticipated fall in earnings from coffee, tea and cotton. Export revenue from coffee was last year forecast to top US $336 million with export volume estimated at 4 million bags. Production figures were last week revised down to 3.5 million bags for the October 1997 - September 1998 season.

Nairobi, 24 February 1998 14:15 GMT


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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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