Congo: DHA Humanitarian Situation Report, 98.1.16

Congo: DHA Humanitarian Situation Report, 98.1.16

DHA Humanitarian Situation Report (covering November and December 1997)

Produced by the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Congo-Brazzaville.

January 1998


Humanitarian Overview

1. On 5 June 1997 a five-month of civil war began which ravaged Brazzaville and affected many other parts of the country. Brazzaville's crowded neighbourhoods were pounded by indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombing, emptying the capital of practically all its population. Some 5-10,000 people were killed by the war and over 650,000 people displaced. In November the United Nations system led a rapid Inter-Agency assessment of the situation in Brazzaville. This mission produced a Flash Appeal for US $17.7 million covering the areas of food and food production, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter, coordination and security.

2. Today, to many outsider observers, as well as many humanitarian actors involved in providing assistance to those populations in need, the worst of the emergency is over. However, given the absence of a comprehensive overview of the present situation, there is no exact understanding of the nature and definition of the current humanitarian needs. The country appears delicately poised between what might be called a post-emergency and pre-recovery phase. It is feared that unless action is taken to assist in the move towards a state of normality, the country could revert to a state of dire humanitarian need.

3. Since the war ended two months ago, signs of progress are apparent in a number of areas, people have returned to the capital in greater numbers than originally expected, water has been partially restored in Brazzaville, and food to meet basic subsistence needs is available. However, such positive external signs of normal life may conceal deeper problems and thus must be interpreted or acted on with great prudence. Caution has to be exercised when viewing the picture presented by Brazzaville today. It may not accurately reflect the real situation, and definitely does not reveal the extend of the distress of families and communities as a result of their losses over the months of civil war. The full impact of these months of turmoil has yet to be fully appreciated, especially given the widespread looting of the capital and many smaller towns. Of special concern is the violence which was perpetrated against women.

Special Points

4. According to an OXFAM census, close to 70 percent of the Congolese nationals who fled Brazzaville have returned. This is a significant increase when compared to the less than 30 percent who were to be found in the capital when the civil war ceased. However, a number of very specific areas of the city, previously inhabited by people originating from the southern regions of the country, remain almost totally empty, and questions exist as to the origin of those who have returned. Furthermore, few children are seen on the street of the capital, reflecting the fact that many have remained in the home villages to which their parents fled during the fighting. For those returning to the areas within the city most affected by the war, questions remain as to whether they have the financial and other resources necessary to begin repairing their homes and replacing lost possessions.

5. The West African community which constituted the backbone of the economy of Poto-Poto has yet to return, as have diplomatic and development agency personnel, and small-scale investors. These three latter groups lived in the centre of the city, which today is heavily destroyed and was the focus of significant looting.

6. In Brazzaville commercial activity is slowly resuming, but this only at street market levels with limited supplies. Prices are apparently more than twice their pre-war levels and the ability of individuals to access the markets have yet to be known.

Other forms of commercial activity including foreign investment remain negligible. Multinational oil companies on the other hand are providing substantial support to the government in the form of liquidity and contribute to the provision of such basic services as mobile health clinics.

7. The Government organised in Brazzaville the payment of two months worths of salary arrears owed to civil servants. This has no doubt eased the financial squeeze for those civil servants in the country who were not afraid to come and collect their salary. For the others however, the drain on individual family income, which the civil war and its aftermath have imposed, may make it difficult to maintain adequate nutrition. Moreover, it should be recalled that the Republic of Congo has traditionally been a net food importer (for 40 percent of its needs), having never encouraged the development of local agriculture.

8. The greatest assistance offered to those civilian populations most affected by the civil war was provided by the families and relatives of these populations. Large numbers of people moved back to their villages of origin and lived off the generosity of their kinsmen. It has even been suggested that the tragic events may have reinforced traditional family ties which had been weakened through the rapid and large-scale urbanisation of society. The impact of these additional consumers on village reserves has yet to be gauged.

The Transition Challenge

9. Outside support to sustain a nascent recovery and reconciliation process is of critical importance. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) geared primarily to operating in a classic emergency crisis situation, are pulling out of the Republic of Congo, leaving a gap that will need to be filled.

10. The timid response to date of the international community to the Congo Brazzaville crisis further underscores the concern that donor commitments towards reconstruction may not be readily forthcoming. It is to be hoped that the conclusions of the Forum for the Reconciliation, Unity, Democratisation and Reconstruction of the Congo will reconcile the present Government with the international community.

11. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator has thus decided to initiate a review of the humanitarian situation throughout the country with the objective of elaborating a post-crisis humanitarian strategy. This undertaking will be directed by the Ministry of l'Action Humanitaire, with the support of the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, and include all humanitarian partners. The review exercise will produce a document at the end of January which would present the humanitarian situation in the Republic of Congo, and serve as the basis for the elaboration of a post-crisis Humanitarian Strategy, which in turn will support the further elaboration of a more important reconstruction and rehabilitation strategy. In this context, inter-agency assessment missions are planned to be undertaken 16-30 January.

Sectorial Information


12. As a result of the fighting in and around Brazzaville, some 40,000 refugees fled to neighbouring Kinshasa and were placed in a camp at Kinkole. In December, UNHCR began the repatriation of some 2,400 refugees. This was in addition to the 9,600 refugees previously assisted by UNHCR. A total of approximately 38,000 refugees are registered to return. WFP is providing to those returning a one-month food package.

13. In Kintele camp, north of Brazzaville, some 5,000 internally displaced have received plastic sheeting and jerry cans from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In addition, ICRC plans to distribute blankets, jerry cans, soap, tarpaulins and cooking utensils to 15,000 people who have lost everything and who are entirely dependent on external support in the four hardest-hit areas of Brazzaville.


14. The Inter-agency team found in November that much of the health system of the country had collapsed and that the health infrastructure in the capital had been destroyed. Since then, with the assistance of the humanitarian community, much of the infrastructure in the capital has been repaired, while the health system throughout the country, specifically as concerns the provision of drugs and resources, has yet to be fully restored.

15. WFP reported that cases of malnutrition were regularly registered in the different health centres in Brazzaville and said the most affected people were under-fives with oedemas (distended bellies). The agency concluded that if a general nutritional survey was conducted a lot of cases would be found among this category of the population. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) commenced a survey in December and its results, once known, should make it possible for WFP to review its strategy with the WHO and UNICEF in order to ensure that its operations target the most vulnerable people. Meanwhile, the NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in collaboration with Caritas, is setting up nutritional centres, even before the results of the MSF survey are known.

16. A measles vaccination campaign is planned for early January with UNICEF utilising Merlin as an implementing partner.

17. A weight/height survey conducted recently by the Sisters of Charity in Makelekele hospital revealed that 20 percent of the children there were suffering from severe malnutrition and that a therapeutic feeding programme was needed to combat the illness.

18. The ICRC has restored a capacity of 250 beds to the Brazzaville University Hospital, which maintained a pre-war capacity of 975 beds. The weekly number of outpatient consultations at the hospital is around 1,200. The hospital had previously received emergency assistance from the French government. In addition, the ICRC has assisted in the rehabilitation of 25 of the 27 health centres which existed in the capital before the war. All should be functional before the end of January, and the ICRC will continue supporting them sometime into early-mid 1988.

19. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF developed a programme to help victims of sexual violence to recover. The project is to be supported by WHO. Similarly the NGO International Rescue committee (IRC) is currently undertaking a survey of the extent of such needs with the support of a "social psychologist". A common methodology and approach are to be developed.


20. It was only in the early days of peace in Brazzaville that WHO and the Congolese Red Cross were able to address the problem of hygiene and bury many of those killed by the fighting. A major effort was undertaken to control the spread of any related diseases.

21. OXFAM left end-December after concluding the provision of drinking water was back to pre-war levels. A public health engineering team reported that with a water treatment plant at Djiri back on stream following an electrical problem some 65 percent of Brazzaville now received water. The figure fell to 20 percent just after the war. Some 55 percent of the water sources in the capital are considered polluted and/or necessitating some form of treatment before being utilised.

22. IRC continued with the rehabilitation with the rehabilitation of Talangai hospital, but said it also now planned to expand a sanitation programme into the surrounding neighbourhood.

23. The ICRC has delivered seven 10-15,000 litre bladders to integrated health centres, a further seven are planned to be delivered to those areas within Brazzaville which remain without water.


24. An attempt was made to open schools on 7 December. The effort was of limited success as the timing of the opening coincided with the payment of outstanding salaries to civil servants, of whom teachers are part. Furthermore, classes located in certain areas of the city were very sparsely filled.

25. A UNICEF survey of primary schools in Brazzaville found that more than 50 percent of classrooms are in bad condition and that in Poto-Poto almost 80 percent of the classrooms can not be used. UNICEF and the UNESCO have been providing classrooms kits. Little is known of the situation prevailing in village schools.

26. As part of its peace education initiative UNESCO undertook a mission to Brazzaville in December. Discussions were held with senior government officials on the government's information needs and the support that the agency could offer in promoting messages of reconciliation.


27. The Inter-Agency team estimated in November that some 50,000 people in Brazzaville had been left shelterless as a result of the war. Many more were left with houses almost completely looted. CRS and Caritas are finalising the collection of data on the number of people left homeless as a result of the events. The Congolese Red Cross in collaboration with the ICRC is distributing plastic sheeting to some 130,000 people in Brazzaville. During the war they also distributed plastic sheeting to displaced populations.

28. UNCHS (Habitat) is planning in January to field an assessment mission to review the needs and identify the modalities of their intervention. UNV is currently identifying a candidate to serve as an advisor to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator on the emergency rehabilitation of individual housing.

29. The government reported flooding in the regions of Epina and Likouala as well as in the district of Makoua Ntokou in north Congo. In Mossaka 4-6,000 people are reported to have been left shelterless by the floods. UNICEF, CRS, Caritas and the Congolese Red Cross are assembling for distribution the necessary relief materials, including medical supplies, shelter materials, blankets and jerry cans.


30. The Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator was established in November 1997 to assist in the coordination of the humanitarian response. The office is supported by UNDP. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator chairs a weekly coordination meeting.

31. With the support of UNICEF, the ministry of Humanitarian Action established a working group on the issue of shelter. Three sectorial working groups are now operational in addition to the biweekly humanitarian coordination meeting. The working groups include HEALTH, chaired by WHO which meets every first and third Wednesday of the month, FOOD SECURITY, chaired by FAO which meets every Friday, and SHELTER, chaired by the ministry of Humanitarian Action which meets every Monday in the ministry.

32. In order to facilitate the movement of personnel between Brazzaville and Kinshasa, WFP will operate a speed boat purchased by UNDP. A communications system, including a radio net, is in the process of being set up with the support of WFP telecommunications experts. A facility was initially established in the UNICEF compound, which had suffered significantly less from the lootings and other war related destructions.


33. The security situation in Brazzaville has significantly improved. Armed security forces have been integrated into different units, police, gendarmeries, and regular army. Very few non-uniformed people are seen carrying arms. However, acts of violence continue to take place from time to time, despite operations to collect arms and ammunition. Regular meetings are held between the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (in the capacity as Designated Official), and the military and police authorities.


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]

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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 3-98 covering the period 9-15 Jan 1998

BURUNDI: Government says rebels creating confusion as violence continues

As violence continued in Burundi, the government last Friday rejected charges by the rebel Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD) that it was responsible for the New Year's massacre at Rukaramu. Speaking on Burundi radio, Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama accused the rebels of "attempting to create confusion". He said the rebels attacked innocent people with hoes, machetes and other traditional weapons and appealed to the international community "not to be abused by those killers who are trying to conceal the genocide they started in 1993". The opposition FRODEBU party condemned the Rukaramu killings, saying the government was unable to provide security for its citizens.

The army conducted mopping-up operations in Bujumbura Rurale during the week, killing 72 Hutu rebels and losing four soldiers, the Agence burundaise de presse reported. Army spokesman Colonel Isaie Nibizi said there had been no civilian deaths. On Sunday, civilians died in a rebel attack at Rumonge in the southern Bururi province.

US envoy due to visit country

US envoy Howard Wolpe was due to arrive in Bujumbura this week, for talks to try and move the peace process along. State Department spokesman James Foley, quoted by AFP, said Washington believed only a political settlement would bring about lasting peace in Burundi. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the OAU, who led a recent delegation to Burundi, was quoted by Burundi radio as saying "noteworthy progress" had been made towards peace talks. The radio added that he also called for the lifting of sanctions. President Pierre Buyoya on Monday reiterated he was ready to participate in the peace process but insisted it should be held in "neutral territory and with a neutral team". The government, he said, deserved to be consulted over the peace process, rather than being treated "simply as a faction".

South Africa to investigate alleged arms sales to Burundi rebels

The South African government said it would launch an investigation into the alleged supply of arms to rebels in Burundi, PANA news agency reported. It said the human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, claimed individuals in South Africa had been supplying arms and military assistance to the CNDD. According to the report, South Africa's railway organisation Spoornet admitted that arms were frequently transported in their trains to Tanzania for use by the rebels in Burundi.

RWANDA: France denies authorising arms exports during genocide

France on Monday denied it had authorised arms exports to Rwanda which continued until end May 1994, over a month after the start of the genocide. A spokesman for the foreign ministry, Yves Doutriaux, said France stopped authorising arms exports before the UN imposed a weapons ban on 17 May 1994. He was reacting to a report in the daily 'Le Figaro' alleging the continuation of French arms sales to Rwanda after the start of the genocide. The paper quoted then-president Francois Mitterrand as telling close aides that "in such countries, genocide is not too important". It claimed that on 30 May 1994 "an aircraft transporting arms for the Rwandan armed forces worth US $942,680 landed in Zaire". In July, another plane carrying arms for the former Rwandan regime reportedly landed in Goma.

Army kills 24 rebels in Ruhengeri

The Rwandan army killed 24 armed insurgents on Tuesday in northwestern Ruhengeri prefecture, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. The army, tipped off by local residents, intercepted a "large group" of rebels and clashes ensued in the villages of Bisate in Kinigi Commune and Shingiro in neighbouring Mukingo Commune. "Operations to flush criminals out of Ruhengeri are continuing," army spokesman Major Emmanuel Ndahiro told RNA. Over the weekend, at least 18 rebels were killed in neighbouring Gisenyi prefecture and nine nuns were killed by insurgents last Thursday, local officials said. A 1,000-strong rebel force freed dozens of genocide suspects from a prison in Gisenyi's Nyamyumba commune at the weekend. Some of them returned voluntarily to the jail, and were freed by the authorities for "showing goodwill".

General Dallaire to testify at Rwanda tribunal

The UN Secretary-General has waived the diplomatic immunity of Major-General Romeo Dallaire, paving the way for him to appear as a witness before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the UN's Central News service reported on Wednesday. Dallaire, the former Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), has been summoned to appear as a witness for the defence in the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Cholera deaths rise to 231 in Kisangani

Cholera has killed 231 people in military training camps outside Kisangani and infected 1,235 people - 80 percent of them children - UNICEF reported on Wednesday. There have been 66 cases of dysentery which have claimed nine lives. Unhygienic conditions exacerbated by the rains have led to other illnesses including malaria and skin diseases. The majority of cases are from the Kapalata camp, located some six km from Kisangani. The camp was reportedly sheltering up to 4,000 children, mainly ex-Mai-Mai, who arrived from Goma and Bukavu under a re-education programme.

Flooding threatens Kinshasa

The governor of Kinshasa on Tuesday told residents to stay at home after torrential rain flooded some districts of the city. Heavy rain began early on Tuesday morning adding pressure to the already swollen waters of the Congo river which has burst its banks in several port cities up river from Kinshasa. Experts say the Congo River is the highest it has been for at least five years, Reuters reported. The town of Kalemie in the southeast has been cut off from the rest of the country since December when a bridge was swept away. Heavy flooding has also affected the town of Mbandaka around 600 km upstream from Kinshasa, after the Congo burst its banks there, state radio said.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Conference gives Sassou Nguesso three-year term

Congo-Brazzaville leader General Denis Sassou Nguesso secured overwhelming support from participants at a reconciliation forum to remain in power for three years until elections are held, AFP said. Winding up the conference on the country's transition to democracy, Sassou Nguesso said no-one should do anything to "put unity in peril" and asked "forgiveness in the name of a reconciled nation" from victims of the four-month civil war. Meeting for ten days in Brazzaville, the conference agreed on a political programme to be overseen by a 75-member national transitional council to be chaired by former minister of education, Justin Koumba. The forum, attended by 1,420 delegates from political parties, public institutions and professional groups and associations, also agreed to set up trials for alleged war criminals.

ANGOLA: Timetable agreed for accomplishment of peace agreement

UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi was due to meet with President Eduardo dos Santos this week in a step towards bringing Angola's peace process to a close. According to a timetable agreed by both sides on Tuesday, the reinstatement of government administration is to conclude on 27 January and the demobilisation of UNITA forces and the retirement of its senior generals by 28 January, UNITA radio reported. Highlights of the agreement include: UNITA free to operate throughout the country from 4 February; Savimbi's special status to be publicly announced 9 February; UNITA leadership scheduled to return to Luanda on 28 February.

KENYA: IFRC calls for greater support to combat disease

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, efforts to contain the outbreak of what is thought to be Rift Valley Fever in Kenya's flood-stricken Northeastern Province and southern Somalia are being hampered by limited logistical resources. IFRC warned in a statement on Thursday that the disease continues to spread, and it believes the region may be faced by a new and more virulent strain of the fever which has so far claimed more than 450 lives in the two countries. "We are focusing on prevention and control but without proper surveillance to follow up on disease reports from outlying areas we are hampered," the statement said. IFRC points out: "we are unsure precisely what we are dealing with ... We are seeing some strange phenomena and there may be something else out there." Meanwhile, floods in Kenya, caused by incessant heavy rain, continued to create havoc in many parts of the country. A major relief operation, based in the northeastern Kenyan town of Garissa, is underway for northern Kenya and Somalia.

TANZANIA: Political tension intensifies in Zanzibar

Zanzibari President Salmin Amour claimed on Monday there was an external plot to destabilise the islands and said resolving Zanzibar's problems would depend on the people's cooperation. Sixteen members of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party were arrested last month, accused of trying to overthrow the government. Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who visited Zanzibar recently, has warned that political tension there could plunge it into civil conflict. CUF disputes the outcome of 1995 elections - in which it campaigned for greater autonomy - saying the polls were rigged. Zanzibar united with mainland Tanganyika in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

Nairobi, 16 January 1998


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]

- Date: Fri, 16 Jan 1998 15:37:04 -0300 (GMT+3) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Congo: DHA Humanitarian Situation Report January 1998 98.1.16 Message-ID: <>

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

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