|ICRC Activities in Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo: 1994 - 3 February 1999 (International Committee of the Red Cross , 124 p.)|
Geneva, 17 December 1996
From: ICRC Geneva
Msg No. REX/OPS 96/164
The humanitarian situation in Shabunda, a settlement about mid-way between Bukavu and Kindu, is slowly becoming critical. ICRC activities are hampered by poor infrastructure, heavy rains and difficult access to the refugee site. Relief supplies are flown to Kindu from Nairobi in a Hercules cargo plane and then on to Shabunda by DC-3. From the runway, which is often water-logged, relief has to be transported to a river, transferred by dugout, and carried by bicycle to the site four kilometres from the river. Faced with ever increasing numbers of Rwandan and Burundian refugees, ICRC staff are struggling to provide basic food and medical assistance. Most recent refugee counts show that some 40,000 people have by now arrived in Shabunda, and continue to pour in at the rate of 3,000-5,000 a day.
As these refugees are becoming increasingly settled at the site, urgent action is required to find a long-term solution, such as repatriation, before new camps are established. The ICRC has met with UNHCR representatives in Kinshasa and has offered air transport to Shabunda to make it possible to gather first-hand information.
Owing to heavy rain, the ICRC flight to Lubutu had to be cancelled. The ICRC has been in contact with Mcins sans Frontis (MSF), which is working in Lubutu hospital. MSF has said that there are some 30,000 refugees in Tingitingi, seven kilometres west of Lubutu, and tens of thousands more along the road between Walikale and Lubutu.
In Kalemie, the ICRC has started to distribute food rations to 4,400 Zairian displaced and 800 refugees.
Access to areas around Goma and in North Kivu is still not possible, and the ICRC has no information about the victims of the conflict in this area.
However, delegates have been given greater access to the areas around Bukavu, and the local authorities have accepted the use of Red Cross messages in the areas they control. An ICRC team and a representative of the German Red Cross went to Uvira to evaluate the situation at the hospital and the possibility of resuming activities there.
On 13 December, eleven Zairian border guards and 14 family members were repatriated to Kinshasa from Uganda in an ICRC-chartered Hercules plane.
A further source of concern for the ICRC has been recent Rwandan refugee movements in and out of camps in Tanzania. Refugees who had left their camps and moved deeper into Tanzania were returned to their camps. However, as of yesterday, a steady tide of Rwandan refugees has been returning to Rwanda via the Rusumo border post. The ICRC has set up two waystations along the Tanzanian road to the border to provide refugees with clean water. The ICRC also took care of 400 unaccompanied children found along the road. By the end of the day, 100 of these children had not yet been reunited with their families. On the Rwandan side of the border, four ICRC water engineers are providing safe drinking water using mobile treatment equipment and water tankers.