Summary of changes brought to the Emergency Plan of Action:
Distribution of vouchers in lieu of cash grants: it was initially planned to provide assistance through cash transfers via mobile phones. However, there is no telephone operator with an operational Mobil Money system in Equatorial Guinea. The option of cash distribution was also considered but proved to be risky from a security perspective. This is why, after a market study, the solution of assistance with vouchers for purchase in wellestablished business firms in Bata was preferred. In fact, local supermarkets are well stocked in food and household items, building materials and pharmacies, thus offering the beneficiaries a large selection.
Reduction in the number of beneficiaries: After the needs assessment conducted by the National Society with IFRC support, 450 households (2,250 people) meeting the selection criteria were identified to receive Red Cross support. This is 50 households less than the initial target of 500 households (2,500 people).
Request for a two (2)-month extension: Several factors delayed the start of the operation, notably the difficulty in finding a Surge with all the required characteristics to assist the Equatorial Guinea Red Cross (EGRC) in the field. As the Surge was deployed with some delay, the activities were also affected. In particular, the market survey and the definition of the most relevant type of monetary assistance to the beneficiaries. In addition, it will take some time to finalise the documents needed to produce the vouchers, to distribute them and to carry out post-distribution monitoring. The implementation timeframe of the operation will be six (6) months in total, with the new end date scheduled for 30 September 2021.
A. SITUATION ANALYSIS
Description of the disaster
On 7 March 2021, a series of explosions were recorded in the armoury of the Gendarmerie and the Nkuantoma military barracks in Bata, the economic capital of Equatorial Guinea. According to official data, 107 people died as a result of these explosions, which also caused extensive damage to residential areas and the military compound. More than 700 people were injured, including women and children in army barracks and residential areas near the military complex. The government described the situation as catastrophic and called for international support to meet humanitarian needs. 615 of the injured were admitted in local health facilities.
A total of 19,000 people were affected by the explosion, including 4,500 displaced persons and 8,000 people in need. According to the assessments conducted by EGRC at the very beginning of the operation, more than 400 families had their homes completely or partially destroyed, thus raising problems of shelter, access to water and food. In addition to those physically affected, there have been reports of unusual behaviour by some children who were traumatised by the blast. As many schools were destroyed, the start of the school year, which was to take place two weeks after the explosion, was compromised. It should also be noted that in the displacement caused by the explosions, some families were separated in confusion, with some parents forced to split their children between various friends and family members due to lack of resources and space. With children potentially unsupervised or beyond the reach of their usual guardians, there is a protection issue.
Summary of the current intervention
Overview of the Operating National Society’s action
The city of Bata is home to a regional committee that covers the other local branches surrounding Bata, under the leadership of a regional steering committee. The Bata committee has 44 active volunteers, all of whom were deployed within the framework of this operation.
As soon as the disaster occurred, the Bata regional committee was active, particularly in providing first aid to the victims and identifying those affected. Then, with the assistance of its Movement partners, the National Society carried out an assessment of the needs of the victims and identified them. After identification, beneficiaries were selected according to preestablished vulnerability criteria, with priority given to families whose houses had been completely destroyed, large families, and families headed by women or with young children, pregnant women and the elderly. A total of 450 families were selected and will receive the planned financial assistance.
The 44 volunteers deployed were trained in psychological first aid, advanced first aid to provide relief to the victims. The same volunteers were briefed on community engagement, to make sure that Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA) aspects are taken into account throughout the operation, and to ensure the involvement of the whole community and good complaint management. It should be noted that all volunteers involved in this operation were insured, briefed on the Code of Conduct and equipped with masks and hydro-alcohol gel.
After these trainings, field trips began at a rate of three trips by three pairs of volunteers each week. These visits are an opportunity for volunteers to provide psychosocial support to affected families and carry out sensitisation on waterborne diseases. To date, 224 families were sensitised, with a total of 1,527 people reached.
As a prelude to the distribution of vouchers to assist the most vulnerable people identified as part of this operation, the NS conducted a market survey which allowed to identify supermarkets that are well-stocked to provide the necessary basic products, including foodstuffs, medicines and construction materials. The provider of this service was identified, and the administrative procedures are going on to make sure that the beneficiaries are satisfied as soon as possible.
Overview of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s action in the country
The IFRC office in Yaoundé supported the NS in launching the alert and then applying for emergency funding, namely the DREF. As soon as the funding was granted, a team of IFRC and EGRC technicians, with logistical support from the ICRC, were deployed to Bata to conduct a rapid assessment of the needs of the victims, define the most appropriate type of assistance according to the context and identify the most vulnerable people with a view to providing support. This mission took place from 16 to 27 March 2021.
In addition to financial support, IFRC also provides technical expertise through the deployment of a support staff (Surge) to oversee the implementation of DREF activities. The organisation's other support services also support this operation remotely and through field missions.
Overview of other actors actions in country
The Government of Equatorial Guinea assisted the affected families of the soldiers through a direct cash distribution. Government assistance to the rest of the affected families is expected in the coming months.
UN agencies, including WHO, UNFPA, WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR and UNDP, led by UNDAC, conducted a multi-sectoral assessment of the needs of the victims in Bata, in partnership with the Red Cross Movement. Based on the results of these assessments, the UN and the Government of Equatorial Guinea launched a coordinated humanitarian response and recovery plan for Equatorial Guinea to provide emergency assistance to some 16,000 women, men, girls, boys and adolescents affected by the explosions by providing basic support (food, health and water, sanitation and hygiene), as well as support for the rapid restoration of access to basic services, the restoration of livelihoods, and the rehabilitation of destroyed homes and/or public infrastructure, for a period of one year.