The Red Cross has suspended its humanitarian relief work in the Republic of Congo?s southern region of Pool. The ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, says it had to take the step because of the worsening security situation. Pool is a stronghold of the former Ninja rebels. The fighting between the rebels and the government ended two years ago, but the rebels have not yet been disarmed and demobilized. In recent months there?s been a rise in crime and banditry. Several ICRC staff members have been threatened and attacked.

The ICRC says relief work will be suspended until the region is made safer. The ICRC's head of delegation in Congo, Christophe Martin, told English to Africa reporter Ruby Ofori the suspension will basically mean that very soon, in maybe a week?s time, there will be no more provisions of medicines and materials that we basically hand over to those medical centers on a weekly basis.? Martin said the ICRC serves 60,000 patients through clinics in the region the suspension of ICRC aid ?basically means that these centers will not be able to support any type of medical service.? 

Martin said the suspension is aimed at putting pressure on the government of the Republic of Congo and the opposition group the National Resistance Council (CNR) to speed up their negotiations and jointly take responsibility for the security of the region. ?We just need to make sure that both the government and the CNR have taken clear, clear notice of our strong position and that they engage themselves in what they define as needed to bring back security in the Pool department, which is not only of concern for the humanitarian organizations working in the Pool, but first and foremost for the civilian population.?