Update No. 14 on ICRC activities related to the Zairian crisis
Geneva, 13 December 1996
From: ICRC Geneva
Msg No. REX/OPS
Light is gradually being shed on the whereabouts of large groups
of Rwandan and Burundian refugees still remaining in eastern Zaire. After having
located some 11,000 refugees (90% of whom are Rwandan and 10% Burundian) in
Shabunda, about mid-way between Bukavu and Kindu, on 8 December, the ICRC has
received information that groups of refugees and displaced totalling well over
100,000 people are in the areas around Shabunda and nearby Katshungu.
The ICRCs ongoing refugee counts show that between 2,000
and 3,000 people, mostly family units, are arriving daily at a site five
kilometres east of Shabunda, accessible only by bicycle and dugout. As of this
morning, some 23,000 refugees had arrived. The ICRC expects that in the days and
weeks ahead refugees in the area will continue to move towards, and gather at,
Shabunda. Among the refugees are 260 unaccompanied children who fled their
orphanage, run by the Belgian Red Cross in Bukavu, when the fighting started.
Most of the Rwandan refugees in Shabunda have said that they want to return
Rwanda as soon as it is safe to do so. However, although they are prepared to
walk back if necessary, they refuse to go through the Bukavu region.
Reports confirmed by missionaries in the area indicate that
other large groups of refugees are moving along the road leading from Katshungu
to Shabunda. As yet unconfirmed information about very large numbers of refugees
between Bukavu and the Shabunda area has also been received.
An ICRC team which flew to Lubutu on 11 December was unable to
land in the town because the runway was crowded with people. However, estimates
based on aerial observations indicate that large numbers of people are gathered
seven kilometres west of Lubutu along the road to Kisangani. Today the ICRC will
make a second attempt to land at Lubutu and evaluate the situation.
Faced with the masses of refugees, the ICRC is extremely
concerned that urgent efforts should be made to find long-term solutions before
new camps are established. Consequently, the ICRC aims to provide only
light food assistance, such as biscuits and dried fish, to use
mobile medical teams rather than to set up hospitals, and to avoid construction
work concentrated in one particular spot.
The ICRC has opened two health posts in Shabunda and two in the
refugee site, and is providing basic medicines for the general hospital and two
dispensaries. Biscuits and three tonnes of maize flour have been distributed as
emergency assistance. An ICRC tracing office and special centres for orphans and
unaccompanied children have been established, as have minimum sanitary
In Shabunda the ICRC has registered some 2,500 Zairian
displaced, whom it is supplying with food rations. The local population, which
is suffering from the influx of refugees and displaced, is being assisted with
food and other items.
Zairian displaced in Kindu and Kalima are also being assisted by
the ICRC. In Kalima, 400 displaced at four ICRC sites are being supported
through a church organization. In Kindu, food is being distributed daily to some
660 displaced, some of whom live at sites that are being equipped with
mattresses, jerrycans and kitchen material. More displaced people are arriving
daily in Kindu from the Goma region.
In Kalemie, the ICRC has been permitted to supply food relief
for some 13,000 Zairian displaced. The delegation is still waiting for
authorization to go north of Kalemie, since there are unconfirmed reports of
more victims of the conflict in the areas west of Baraka and Fizi.
The ICRC teams in Goma, Bukavu and Uvira continued to carry out
their water and sanitation activities and to provide medical assistance. In
particular, the ICRC in Goma supplies all three hospitals with medical equipment
and drugs, and is active in 15 health centres and the three hospitals in
Kirotshe, Rutshuru and Masisi. Assistance is given as needed to hospitals in
Katana and Walungu, both near Bukavu, and to the general hospital in Bukavu
itself. Ten health centres in Bukavu are also being supported. In Uvira, the
ICRC assists the surgery unit of the hospital and ten dispensaries.
Although it is still very difficult to obtain authorization to
move outside the three cities, the ICRC was able to bring back to Bukavu by
truck some 2,000 Zairian displaced who had been located 30 kilometres west of
the town, along the road to Walikale.
To support its activities on the ground, an ICRC-chartered
Hercules cargo plane is currently flying from Nairobi via Kisangani to Kindu.
Efforts are being made to obtain authorization to fly directly from Nairobi to
Kindu, Kalima and Kalemie. Cargo shuttle flights using small aircraft
(Beechcraft, DC3 and Twin-Otter) will bring supplies to smaller towns whose
landing strips are too short for the Hercules. Food coming from Lubumbashi is
being transported to Kindu and Kalemie by train. Three wagons with 120 tonnes of
food and other assistance left Lubumbashi for Kindu, as did two wagons carrying
80 tonnes destined for Kalemie.
For further information, please contact the External Resources