|ICRC Activities in Rwanda: 1993 - 6 April 2000 (International Committee of the Red Cross , 230 p.)|
Before the resumption of hostilities in Rwanda this April, the ICRC was already conducting a huge relief operation in the country. During the whole of 1993 around a million displaced people, forced to leave their homes after the outbreak of fighting in October 1990 and a second attack mounted by the FPR in February 1993, received assistance. The programme was carried out in cooperation with the Rwanda Red Cross and with some help from the World Food Programme.
Priority given to the protection of vulnerable groups
Following the death of President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, the ICRC was the only humanitarian organization to remain on the spot Its delegates were direct eye witnesses of the dramatic events in the capital Kigali and did everything they could to prevent the worst from happening. Approaches were made regularly to the civilian and military authorities on both sides, and to militia leaders and other influential people to stress the ICRCs concern. As a neutral, impartial and independent institution, the ICRC tried to bring some humanity into the prevailing chaos.
The main aim of all these efforts was to protect vulnerable groups in the capital Kigali and also elsewhere in the country. For example, in July ICRC delegates were in Kabgay, in the midst of thousands of displaced people who were in mortal danger. The ICRC presence could not prevent some killings, but it certainly saved thousands of lives.
The ICRC also realized very quickly how bad conditions were for people living in south-western Rwanda, especially for several thousand Tutsis massed in a football stadium in Cyangugu and later transferred to Nyarushishi camp. With the arrival of the French troops the security situation improved and the ICRC was able to continue its humanitarian operation in a safer environment.
Diplomats in Geneva and New York were kept regularly informed about the terrible situation in Rwanda. The ICRCs reports were backed up by the international media, which were briefed by delegates in the field.
Short-term assistance in refugee camps
A huge cross-border medical and relief programme was launched immediately. Throughout the crisis the ICRC remained in Kigali and set up several sub-delegations in different pans of the country. When the flood of Rwandans streamed into Tanzania in May and into Zaire in August the ICRC was in a position to take rapid action and provide the refugees with food during the interim period before UNHCR and other organizations were able to cope with the refugee situation.
THE ICRCS LARGEST OPERATION IN
Relief: More than 25,000 tonnes of food distributed to displaced people and refugees
Since the outbreak of violence in April this year, the ICRC has distributed 25.000 tonnes of food and other supplies and thousands of blankets, cooking pots, plastic sheeting and jerrycans 10 more than a million displaced people inside Rwanda, as well as short-term assistance to 1.3 million refugees in Tanzania and Zaire. The operation continues, with 8,000 tonnes of food being distributed monthly. It represents a major challenge in terms of logistics: aircraft make regular flights 10 Kigali, Goma, Cyangugu and Bujumbura and a fleet of 130 trucks is used for distribution within the country.
Medical assistance: more than 1,000 operations performed
Immediately after the outbreak of violence the ICRC provided support to existing medical facilities in Kigali and opened its own field hospital 10 the city, where its surgical teams performed more than 1,000 operations up to the end of July. ICRC surgeons were also working in hospitals in Kabgay and Rilima. In Goma the ICRC set up another surgical and medical unit where both military and civilian patients were treated. This was closed at the end of August Dispensaries all aver the country are receiving medicines and medical materials through the Red Cross. Medical supplies worth over half a million Swiss francs have been distributed to date.
Water: a vital need
Ensuring a supply of safe water has been one of the priorities of the current operation, ICRC sanitary engineers have saved thousands of lives by providing water to camps for displaced people, hospitals and other public buildings. As soon as the situation allowed, engineers also repaired the water plants in Kigali (an output of 450,000 litres per hour), Ruhengeri, Gisenye and Butare. The necessary chemicals are regularly supplied to local workers to keep the clean water running.
Distribution of seeds in September
In some areas of other Rwanda displaced people have left the camps and returned to their villages, where they are resuming their normal activities. The ICRC is planning to distribute 1,800 tonnes of bean and maize seeds to 600,000 beneficiaries in September.
Over 2,000 prisoners registered so far
The new government in Kigali has guaranteed the ICRC access to all prisoners. So far more than 2,000 prisoners have been registered in Kigali, Kibungo, Rilima, Butare and Gitarama. Follow-up visits to all these prisoners and the registration of new ones will be high on the agenda of the ICRC in Rwanda.
Thousands of unaccompanied children registered
In this conflict as in so many others children have been the main victims. Thousands, indeed probably over 100,000 of them have become separated from their parents and relatives or have simply been abandoned. Many of them are now living in centres or camps for the displaced in Rwanda or abroad where they are cared for by humanitarian organizations. The ICRC and these other organizations are registering as many children as they can in the hope of reuniting them as soon as possible with their parents. All the information collected is centralized by the ICRC in a data bank in Nairobi and forwarded to all Red Cross offices in the field as well as to the offices of the other organizations concerned. Hundreds of parents have approached these offices and a few family reunifications have already been organized. By the end of August more than 6,000 children had been registered.
Around 160 expatriate staff and several hundred local employees are carrying out the ICRCs programmes in Rwanda.
Budget: 108 million Swiss francs
The budget for the Rwandan operation is the ICRCs largest this year. Some 108 million Swiss francs (76 million US dollars) will certainly be needed to cover all aspects of the operation. At this stage it seems possible that this budget may have extended if the huge remaining needs are to be met.