Guinea Bissau - 1998

In June 1998 there was an attempted coup d'état against the president JoÃ?£o Bernardo Viera followed by several months of armed conflict between forces loyal to the president and the military Junta. Up to 300,000 people fled the capital Bissau at this time. MSF opened an emergency mission inside the country to help the civilian victims of the unrest, providing assistance to rural and urban populations and to the displaced. Activities included support to surgical referral centres, basic health-care for the displaced, vaccination against measles, water and sanitation activities, epidemiological surveillance and emergency preparedness. These activities continued until the end of 1998. In February 1999 the fragile peace structure imploded, and the fighting in the capital Bissau resulted in newly displaced people. Emergency activities were renewed, this time coinciding with a meningitis epidemic which affected most of the country. The entire country was vaccinated between February and May 1999, with 95% coverage. Since early June, Vieira has been living inside the Portuguese Embassy as diplomats and the transitional government deliberate on whether or not he should be allowed go into exile in Portugal or be made to stand trial in Guinea Bissau. The emergency mission is over and plans for closure are underway.