IRIN Update 618 for 26 Feb 1999

IRIN Update 618 for 26 Feb 1999

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. 618 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 26 February 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Regional summit calls for ceasefire

The heads of state of seven Central African nations, meeting in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde yesterday (Thursday), called for a ceasefire in the DRC conflict and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country, Reuters reported. It said the summit called on the country's leaders to pursue dialogue and accelerate the democratic process, warning that the conflict threatened peace and stability across Africa. The regional meeting was attended by the heads of state of DRC, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Sao Tome and Principe and Cameroon, as well as the Gabonese vice-president, Rwanda's foreign minister and the prime minister of Equatorial Guinea.

Meanwhile, mediator President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia was planning to hold talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala over the weekend as part of continuing diplomatic efforts to end the DRC conflict, AFP said.

Serious human rights abuses on both sides

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) have committed serious human rights abuses and should be criticized together with the government, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. The report documents rebel abuses including civilian massacres, arbitrary detention of political opponents and harassment of human rights defenders. It also says government forces were responsible for the ongoing persecution of ethnic Tutsis, restrictions on basic freedoms and violations of the laws of war.

"Both sides are committing terrible abuses in this war, killing innocent civilians and wreaking destruction on the countryside," a Human Rights Watch statement quoted senior researcher Suliman Baldo as saying. "But outside powers, some of which have gotten involved in the bloodshed, also have a responsibility to stop these gross violations of the laws of war," he said.

24 percent malnutrition among Angolan refugees

A mission by UNHCR and MSF to camps housing Angolan refugees in Katanga province reported an "alarming" rate of malnutrition, UNHCR said in its latest update on the Great Lakes region, issued yesterday. The global malnutrition rate in the Kisenge camps was 24 percent, while 12 percent of the population was severely malnourished, it said. In response, UNHCR is establishing three therapeutic feeding centres and will purchase supplementary food locally. A shipment of WFP food is expected to arrive shortly, the report added.

Tightening up on the media

The DRC government announced yesterday that it was sending a mission of top civil servants to inspect private radio and television stations. The team's mandate, according to the Information Ministry quoted by state media, includes verifying the authenticity of the administrative documents authorising the broadcasters to operate. Other tasks include monitoring the stations' broadcasting reports to see if they are sticking to the programmes they initially set and checking whether they are regularly paying their license fees.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Displaced in northern Brazzaville

There are now some 29,969 displaced persons staying at 18 sites in northern Brazzaville, according to figures provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The figure includes 15,341 vulnerable people, such as children under five years of age, pregnant women and the elderly, who are receiving WFP food rations. A recent nutrition survey revealed that there was currently no severe malnutrition problem among the displaced in the sites, it said. The ICRC has increased the water-distribution capacity to at least seven liters per person per day, IFRC said, adding that about 40 diarrhoea cases are now being reported per week at most sites.

These displaced are among some 200,000 residents of southern Brazzaville who fled their homes in December 1998 as a result of fighting between government forces and Ninja militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas. Thousands of displaced persons are staying with friends or relatives in northern Brazzaville. But humanitarian sources told IRIN that the difficult economic situation faced by the city's general population may soon lead to an increase in the number of people in the displaced sites, which are located mainly on the grounds of city churches. "Those displaced now staying with families may have to join the people in the sites because their hosts don't have enough money or food to share with them," one source told IRIN.

People fleeing conflict continue to arrive in DRC

Tens of thousands of residents of southern Brazzaville had fled further south in December and remain unaccounted for. People fleeing the conflict were arriving in the Bas-Congo area of DRC at a rate of 30-40 per day, UNHCR said yesterday. An estimated 20,000 had so far settled in the Luozi area of Bas-Congo, it said.

Meanwhile, a government-led assessment mission was being planned for the town of Dolisie in southern Congo, where recent fighting between government forces and Cocoye militia allied to former president Pascal Lissouba was reported to have resulted in additional population displacements, humanitarian sources told IRIN.

Rwandan refugees moved to Loukolela

Rwandans in the Ndjoundo and Liranga refugee camps in northern Congo have been moved to the Loukolela camp, also located in the north, UNHCR said in its latest Great Lakes update. It said there were now 2,600 people in the Loukolela camp, down from 6,000 in mid-1998. Due to the "militarization" of the Kintele camp near Brazzaville, UNHCR has now ceased operations there, the report said. An "undetermined number of Rwandans" remained in the Kintele camp, it added. Earlier this month, UNHCR announced it would be phasing out its assistance to Rwandans in the country after determining that hundreds of men from the camps had become involved in the latest fighting in the country.

SUDAN: Meningitis epidemic spreading

The meningitis epidemic in Sudan is spreading and has reached the capital Khartoum, a WHO official in Geneva told IRIN today (Friday). Maria Santamaria, a medical officer in WHO's communicable diseases programme, said 1,160 meningitis cases had been reported in Sudan since December 1998, with 175 deaths attributed to the disease. The epidemic started in Darfur and has touched Kordofan, White Nile, Sennar, River Nile as well as Khartoum, where 80 cases and 25 deaths have been reported so far, she said. Epidemic control efforts are being undertaken by UNICEF, WHO, IFRC, MSF and the government. Santamaria said the government had recently provided three million doses of meningitis vaccines while donor agencies had contributed another four million doses.

ETHIOPIA: Thousands threatened with food and water shortages

An estimated 145,000 people are threatened with food and water shortages in Borena in the Oromiya regional state of southern Ethiopia, humanitarian sources said. In parts of Arero, Dire, Yabello and Teltele, malnutrition cases have been reported among several children and adults as a result of poor food security conditions, a UN/NGO/government assessment team found. The team said people had to walk 12-48 hours to obtain water for human consumption. The team also visited displaced communities where the situation "required immediate life saving measures," the report said. "WFP and the Ethiopian government are aware of the evolving situation in southern Ethiopia and steps have already been taken to provide relief assistance," WFP Information Officer Angela Walker in Addis Ababa told IRIN today.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Court dismisses opposition case over defection

The Constitutional Court has dismissed a case filed by the opposition seeking the nullification of the election of an assemblyman who subsequently defected to the ruling party, Gabon's Africa Number 1 radio reported yesterday. The defection of Koudou Farah from an opposition party to the Mouvance Presidentielle after his election in last year's legislative polls gave President Ange Felix Patasse a majority in the 109-seat National Assembly and led to a political impasse in the country. The radio quoted an opposition politician as calling the court's decision a "show of unqualified injustice."

The UN Security Council last week expressed concern about the political tensions in the country. The current mandate of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) expires on Sunday and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended its extension until presidential elections to be held sometime this year.

EAST AND SOUTHERN AFRICA: Sudden increase in cholera cases

WHO has been informed by health officials in several countries of eastern and southern Africa of an increase in cholera cases. "The situation in eastern Africa is similar to that at the end of 1997 when almost all countries in the Horn of Africa were affected by severe cholera outbreaks or threatened by them," WHO said in a statement released today. It said sudden increases in cases and deaths were now being reported in the same countries as well as some Southern African ones. Countries recently reporting new or increased cholera activity are: Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

UNITED NATIONS: 1999 AIDS campaign focuses on young people

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) yesterday launched the 1999 World Aids Campaign, which will aim to raise the level of open communication about HIV among children and young people. "Working with people under 25 is perhaps the best hope we have today of bringing the epidemic under control," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said in Brazil at the official campaign launch. He said "adults spend too much time telling young people what to do without listening to what they need: affection, close bonds with adults, and education about healthy sexuality." Experience shows that the stigma surrounding HIV infection can be significantly reduced by educating adolescents about HIV/AIDS and especially dispelling myths about its causes, according to a UNAIDS press release received by IRIN. The prevalence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is greater than anywhere else in the world. Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 34 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa have been infected and 11.5 million people, a quarter of them children, have already died.

Nairobi, 26 February 1999, 1630 GMT


Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 19:51:27 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 618 for 26 Feb 1999.2.26

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

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