|ICRC Activities in Rwanda: 1993 - 6 April 2000 (International Committee of the Red Cross , 230 p.)|
26 January 1996
Human resources: In 1995, an average of 155 ICRC delegates and about 1,600 local staff were working to assist and protect the vulnerable groups within the population by assessing conditions of detention and registering detainees for their protection, re-establishing family ties, restoring water supplies, distributing food and seeds and rebuilding health centres.
Budget: At the end of June, ICRC issued a new emergency appeal for its activities in Rwanda for 1995. Due mainly to the unexpected level of protection activities, the ICRC budget was increased from 53 million USD to 82 million USD.
Main concern: Says Philippe Lazzarini, ICRC Chief Delegate for Rwanda, about the situation in the detention centres at the end of the year: The prison population in nearly all prisons and communal lock-ups exceeds their intended capacity manyfold. The need to identify and open new detention sites is as urgent as ever. I appeal to the international community and to the Rwandan government not to neglect this humanitarian responsibility in 1996.
Presence: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) set up a delegation in Rwanda in October 1990 and was the only international humanitarian organisation that remained throughout Rwanda to aid the population during the genocide in 1994.
DETENTION: mortality reduced, overcrowding remains a concern
In 1995, the appalling conditions of detention remained ICRCs primary concern in Rwanda. ICRC, in cooperation with the government, embarked on a massive assistance program in all central prisons to save lives and had in the autumn succeeded in significantly reducing the alarming mortality rates. There was, however, a marked increase in the number of detainees accused of having participated in the genocide and consequently a growing problem of tack of space in the prisons.
At the beginning of 1995, ICRC was visiting slightly more than 18,000 detainees throughout Rwanda. At the end of December, the number of detainees registered by ICRC had increased to 63,000 detainees.
On a visit to Rwanda, the ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga on 28 October appealed to the international community and to the Rwandan government. He warned that the situation in the countrys places of detention urgently needed to be addressed. The appeal followed previous pleas in December 1994 and in March 1995.
- But all over the country, ICRC delegates continue to describe conditions of detention as inhuman and degrading, comments detention co-ordinator Brigitte Troyon. She says although people are no longer dying, there is a constant danger of epidemics as hygiene conditions are extremely poor.
ICRC remains concerned with the overcrowding. Even once all new sites are operational, the level of overpopulation in the Rwandan prisons will remain unacceptably high. When completed, the new facilities will only be able to take in about one fourth of the excess.
Visits were regularly carried out to all places of detention and reports entailing the delegates recommendations submitted to the authorities. ICRC witnessed severe overcrowding of up to four detainees to one square metre. This meant that detainees were unable to lie down and it made their access to basic requirements such as water food, latrines and health care very precarious. In the extreme cases, the poor conditions resulted in infections, gangrene and the subsequent amputation of the limbs.
Throughout the year, ICRC tried to upgrade the living conditions by providing detainees with water, food, other aid, and medical care.
However, as the judicial system had not been restored and all places of detention became increasingly overcrowded, the set up of new locations was the only way to alleviate the appalling conditions for the detainee population.
The opening of rehabilitated (Gitarama, Nyanza, Rilima) or completely new detention centres (Nsinda) brought a partial and short-term easing to the problem of lack of space. ICRC had, in view of the extreme urgency, helped the Rwandan authorities extend or construct these centres of detention.
At the end of 1995, five other sites were undergoing work in order to host the excess of detainees in Rwanda. In all these places, ICRC contributed to water, sanitation and kitchen facilities as well as tents for Nsinda and another site (Onatracom in Kigali).
Towards the end of the year, ICRC payed particular attention to the alarming conditions in communal detention centres. Due to the overcrowding in the prisons and the lateness of the judiciary, an ever higher number of detainees were spending more the three months in locations designed to house individuals for only a few days. In a separate and positive development, ICRC welcomed the Rwandan authorities increased participation in the food assistance to the prisons towards the end of the year.
ICRC assisted vulnerable groups in detention. The institution participated in the transfers of over 180 detained minors under 15 to the reeducation centre of Gitagata. Furthermore, 364 women and 72 accompanying children were at the end of September transferred from the old overcrowded womens ward in Kigali prison to new, less cramped quarters built with the aid of ICRC.
TRACING: tens of thousands of children are still lost
As tens of thousands of children still had no news of their families after the horrific events of 1994, ICRC stepped up its efforts to find their parents or other family members. In its efforts, ICRC worked closely with international, national and non-governmental organisations.
ICRC launched a masstracing campaign in co-operation with other organizations and the local authorities. It brought lists with names of unaccompanied children to community meetings in villages where the children lived before the war, and to refugee camps in Rwandas neighbouring countries. The lists were read aloud, and often, somebody would recognize the name of a child. In some villages, ICRC found more than half of the childrens families or relatives.
At the end of the year, 83,000 Rwandan children were listed as unaccompanied in orphanages, foster families and refugee camps in the Great Lakes Region.
Many parents have given up hope that their children are still alive and have simply stopped searching for them, said tracing coordinator Elizabeth Twinch. They do not come to ICRC to check if we have any information on their kids - thats why we started seeking out parents in their home communes.
The community meetings also offered an excellent opportunity to get in touch with many unaccompanied children who had still not been registered by an organization involved in the vast tracing programme.
Once a child was registered, ICRC could then try to track down relatives.
When connection was made between parents and a child, ICRC arranged for the child to be reunited with the family. Since August 1994, ICRC has carried out over 2,500 family reunions.
Red Cross messages between family members established the whereabouts of many persons and provided a vital link between family members. The essential character of ICRCs service was shown by the fact that as many as 1,300,000 messages had been distributed by the end of 1995, and 1,500,000 collected. An average of 130,000 RCMs a month were exchanged in the Great Lakes region.
Nevertheless, there were local suspensions of the collection and distribution of RCMs which took time to resolve. The strict control by ICRC on the content of the messages and the difficulties for distribution caused by the terrain and the weather also affected the number of messages in circulation.
With thousands of unaccompanied children living in foster families still not registered, and with tens of thousands of children and parents still to be traced, tracing programmes and the exchange of RCM need to continue in 1996.
During 1995, ICRC increased the staff for the tracing services in the region and there are now over 600 local staff and 40 expatriates working in offices in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zaire.
WATER/SANITATION: providing clean water
The urban population in Rwanda had access to potable water largely thanks to essential chemicals supplied by ICRC, who covered more than half of Rwandas needs of water treatment chemicals in cities. The ICRC assistance included 800 tons of aluminium sulphate, 39 tons of calcium hypochlorite and 100 tons of lime.
More than 300,000 people in rural areas had access to clean water thanks to projects carried out by the American, Australian and Swedish Red Cross societies working under the auspices of ICRC.
In cooperation with MINITRAPE, ICRC rehabilitated sources, rerouted pipelines, constructed standposts and reservoirs, and repaired treatment plants.
ICRC arranged training courses for local water personnel and hygiene education for the local population. To enable the population itself to maintain its water systems, ICRC and Rwandan authorities appointed and trained local water caretakers. They collect taxes in order to finance the maintenance of the water systems.
A theatre play written by the American Red Cross delegates in Kibuye and performed by local artists explained the importance of clean water and toured several Prefectures.
Two rural water projects were completed in the prefectures of Ruhengeri and Kibuye while two other projects benefiting the rural population are still on-going in Gisenyi and Butare/Gikongoro.
Joint projects with Electrogaz were carried out in both Kigali and Kibuye to rehabilitate and construct water supply schemes. The project in Kibuye alone cost over 100,000 US dollars and will nearly double the flow of clean water to the town.
ICRC worked in all 13 prisons under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. Six ICRC water/sanitation engineers upgraded the water supply and sanitary facilities in order to provide sufficient quantities of drinking water and basic hygiene to the inmates. Toilets were installed, septic tanks rehabilitated or constructed and water storage tanks built. The cost of upgrading the sanitary facilities of the existing prisons exceeded 750,000 USD excluding logistics and salaries.
RELIEF: aid halted as Rwandans become self-sufficient
As more Rwandans became self-sufficient in 1995, ICRC was able to gradually step down its massive food assistance in the country. ICRC relief assistance was planned to respond to different categories of people in need through emergency rehabilitation programs for internally displaced (IDPs), for the general population (including distribution of seeds and tools), for secondary school pupils and for detainees.
After a peak in the number of beneficiaries of 1,2 million in 1994, ICRC in 1995 carried out distributions for approximately 220000 internally displaced in camps in the southern Gikongoro Prefecture from the beginning of the year until April, when these camps were forcibly closed. ICRC emergency assistance then focused on water, biscuits and weekly or bi-weekly rations of food to 90,000 people as they walked to their communes of origin.
Last summer, these distributions were replaced by general food aid, benefiting the resident population (in all, regular distributions to 360000 persons) most of whom had recently returned to their homes. This aid was discontinued as planned at the end of the year.
In 1995, ICRC distributed
ICRC helped farmers generate a minimum level of household food security and self-reliance. It handed out seeds and agricultural implements to 66,000 Rwandan families in Gitarama, Butare, Bugesera and Cyangugu Prefectures. Along with the seeds, these families received supplementary food rations to help ensure that the seeds would not be eaten (seeds protection).
To bolster the governments efforts to restore the education system, ICRC, since April, distributed 1,470 MT of food to 20,000 secondary school pupils in four prefectures. In October, the responsibility for the program was passed on to the Rwandan Red Cross through an agreement
All year long, ICRC assisted prisoners with food (6000 MT) and non-food items. The food aid was towards the end of the year increasingly taken over by the Ministry of Justice.
MEDICAL: improving public health
ICRC focused on the reconstruction of health centres and the medical needs in places of detention.
Under the auspices of ICRC and in agreement with the Ministry of Health, the French and German Red Cross assisted 14 health centres in Kigali rural, Gitarama and Byumba which were damaged during the events of 1994. ICRC also supported one health centre in Kibuye. These centres cover the basic medical needs of 450,000 Rwandans.
The buildings of the health centres were repaired, the water and electricity re-established and new medical equipment and furniture purchased. The Red Cross supplied medicine and trained the local personnel.
By the end of the year, the health centres provided services for pre- and post natal care, deliveries, vaccinations, family planning, health education and AIDS prevention. In 1996 the health centres should be able to function without ICRC involvement.
ICRC doctors and nurses worked in the prisons treating detainees in need of medical assistance. They helped set up dispensaries where Rwandan staff carried out day-to-day medical consultations and treatments. This remained a major task as inmates in some locations lived in disastrous conditions due to lack of space.
At the beginning of the year, the high mortality rate in all prisons prompted ICRC to engage in a vast assistance program that in the autumn drastically had reduced the mortality rate. At the end of the year, the most common diseases were dysentery, tuberculosis, malaria and respiratory infections.
Following the closure of camps for internally displaced in the south of Rwanda in April, ICRC set up a surgical unit at the Butare University Hospital. This unit became operational in a matter of 48 hours, and ICRC surgical teams treated more than 200 wounded patients. The unit remains on stand-by in case of future emergencies.
DISSEMINATION: promoting IHL
In 1995, ICRC initiated a program aimed at creating awareness of international humanitarian law (IHL) within the army and the gendarmerie.
In February, a seminar was held in Kigali for political commissioners and officers of the Etat-Major. In July and August, a similar program was organised at the National Police School (EGENA) in Ruhengeri.
Throughout the year, ICRC conducted regular dissemination session for authorities in the Prefectures such as mayors, judicial police officers and prison directors.
ICRC launched a radio campaign to heighten public awareness on ways of re-establishing family links. Radio spots were aired and advertisements printed in four newspapers.
Printed material, such as leaflets and pocket calendars informing about ICRC activities, as well as posters teaching people about the importance of hygiene and clean water, were printed in Kigali and distributed widely.