• Send page
  • Print page

Africa - ICRC Annual Report 2009

19-05-2010 Annual Report No 2009

In 2009, the ICRC maintained a strong operational presence in sub-Saharan Africa (hereafter Africa), carrying out a wide range of activities to protect and assist victims of past and present armed conflicts or other situations of violence. It also endeavoured to prevent human suffering by promoting much wider implementation of IHL throughout Africa. During 2009, it appealed for funds in addition to its original budget for operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

 Chad, the DRC, Somalia and Sudan were among the 10 biggest ICRC operations worldwide. Amid escalating conflict and drought, Somalia was one

of the world’s most pressing humanitarian emergencies. Compared with 2008, fighting between government troops and armed groups was less

intense in the eastern DRC, notably in North and South Kivu (the Kivus) and Province Orientale, in eastern Chad and neighbouring Darfur in

Sudan, and in northern Mali and Niger. However, rampant lawlessness and communal violence in all these countries increasingly endangered

people’s lives and livelihoods. South Sudan, as well as Sudan’s disputed north-south border regions, erupted in ethnic violence, while in the Central

African Republic (CAR), peace initiatives brought calm to some, but not all, parts of the north. Nigeria again witnessed regular military clashes in the

Niger Delta during the first half of 2009 and intercommunal violence in the north. To assist people rapidly and effectively, ICRC delegations in all

these countries remained flexible, adapting operations to the scale and urgency of needs.

As the situation had stabilized in Angola, Congo and Sierre Leone, ICRC delegations there closed down and the Pretoria (South Africa) regional,

Yaoundé (Cameroon) regional and Guinea delegations, respectively, took over activities in those countries. In other countries recovering from

conflict or unrest, the ICRC streamlined and adapted activities to needs, such as in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda and Uganda.

Given mounting government restrictions, the Eritrea delegation had to again reduce operations (see Eritrea).

The ICRC operated in most regions affected by conflict or other situations of violence, sometimes in areas other organizations avoided because of

security constraints. Gaining safe access was, however, challenging in hotspots in the CAR, Chad, Darfur, the DRC, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia.

Much time was spent explaining the ICRC’s neutral and independent stance to all parties to conflict. This allowed dialogue to develop, leading to

acceptance in the field. The ICRC also stressed to all parties their obligations under IHL towards civilians and wounded or captured fighters.

Delegates documented alleged violations and raised them with the relevant parties. Despite these efforts, two ICRC delegates were kidnapped near

year-end, one in West Darfur and the other in eastern Chad, prompting the suspension of most activities in Darfur and along t he Chad-Darfur

border from mid-November. Security constraints slowed ICRC output generally in Chad and Darfur throughout 2009, and also in the CAR and

northern Mali.

Many Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies worked alongside the ICRC during field operations, where they were an invaluable asset and at the same

time gained more hands-on experience. For example, National Society/ICRC teams assessed needs and gave relief goods to IDPs in Nigeria and

Sudan (outside Darfur), distributed seed to needy families in Côte d’Ivoire and provided migrants in Mali with first aid, household items and the

family-links service. National Societies also received ICRC funds, materials, training and logistics back-up to boost their capacities to help needy

communities. With such support, National Societies ran hygiene-awareness programmes for IDPs and returnees in the CAR and Uganda, helped control

cholera outbreaks in the DRC and taught first aid in Chad and Eritrea.

To maximize the impact of humanitarian efforts, the ICRC coordinated its activities with those of Movement partners, UN agencies and other humanitarian actors. This included attendance as an observer at UN cluster meetings. The organization stressed the need to separate political initiatives from

humanitarian aid and strove to demonstrate in the field the added value of neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action in volatile environments.

In countries engulfed in or emerging from conflict or other situations of violence, needy people, mainly IDPs, received emergency aid (as needed,

food, shelter, essential household items and trucked-in water). Longer-term IDPs, those returning home and struggling residents were given, as

appropriate, seed and tools to kick-start farming, sometimes with food to last until the harvest, plus a mix of agricultural, veterinary and microeconomic

assistance designed to boost the local economy in a sustainable manner. One aim, among others, was to help people regain their selfsufficiency

so that they were less likely to become aid dependent and better able to weather future crises. In 2009, some 1.6 million people received

essential household items, more than 1.1 million were given food rations, and more than 2.2 million benefited from livelihood-support initiatives.

Aid was tailored to local needs and the context. For example, farmers in the east of the DRC quadrupled or more their manioc production using

mosaic-resistant cuttings supplied by the ICRC. In Somalia, the provision of irrigation pumps allowed many farmers to double crop production,

while struggling farmers in Zimbabwe were taught techniques to increase yield. In Chad, the 2008 harvest was generally good, so the ICRC scrapped

planned seed distributions and instead gave people materials to boost productivity, such as irrigation pumps and donkey ploughs and harnesses.

Livestock breeders in the CAR received goats and pigs to replace looted animals, while herders and farmers in Chad, the DRC and Darfur were

trained in basic veterinary skills, and animals vaccinated against disease. Using ICRC seed and irrigation pumps, women in Casamance (Senegal),

Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the DRC and Eritrea grew vegetables to improve their families’ diet and to sell for income. Needy people in Kenya, Liberia and

Uganda received food, cash or vouchers in return for their labour rehabilitating farmland and access roads.

Wherever possible, the ICRC assisted IDPs in their place of refuge, often close to their village. This meant that families were less likely to go to IDP

camps, where they risked aid de pendency, and better placed to return home, security permitting. Where needed, however, delegations aided IDPs in

camps, for example in Uganda, where thousands of families were still in transit camps en route home, and in Gereida camp (population around

140,000) in South Darfur, where the ICRC again provided most essential services.

The ICRC also worked to ensure that people in conflict zones or violence-prone regions had access to clean water and health care. By year-end, some

6.2 million people in 18 African countries faced fewer health risks after the ICRC built or rehabilitated key urban and rural water and sanitation facilities. Similarly, an average total population of 2.2 million people a month had access to primary health care at ICRC-supported clinics in 10 countries. In the

east of the DRC, victims of sexual violence received comprehensive medical and psychological treatment at 30 ICRC-supported counselling centres.

In Somalia, three new Red Crescent clinics were opened to serve IDPs, bringing the number of National Society-run clinics supported by the ICRC to 36 countrywide.

Across Africa, tens of thousands of refugees and IDPs reconnected or maintained contact with relatives worldwide through the family-links service run by the National Societies and the ICRC. As a priority, children were put back in touch and, where appropriate, reunited with their parents. More than 1,000 children thus rejoined their families in the CAR, the DRC and South Sudan. In March, Eritrea withdrew authorization for the ICRC to assist in the voluntary repatriation of civilians across the sealed Eritrea-Ethiopia border, while continuing to organize repatriations itself.

Delegates visited some 147,000 people held in 630 detention centres in Africa. They followed individually the cases of 3,798 security detainees,

registering 2,177 new cases in 2009, monitored general detention conditions, and informed the authorities confidentially of their findings and

recommendations, in accordance with standard ICRC working procedures. Despite efforts, by year-end the ICRC had not yet gained or regained

access to all detainees falling within its mandate in certain countries, including Ethiopia, Gambia and Sudan. In Equatorial Guinea, discussions with

the authorities led to the resumption of ICRC visits to security detainees. In Zimbabwe, detainees held in prisons under the authority of the Justice

Ministry began receiving visits from ICRC delegates shortly after the Ministry gave the green light at the end of March. In Chad, Somalia and Sudan,

the ICRC, with all parties’ agreement, acted as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the release and handover to the relevant authorities of people,

usually government soldiers or members of the police force, held by armed groups.

Detainees contacted relatives through the family-links service and received any hygiene or other basic items they lacked. Where necessary, the ICRC

stepped in to improve detention conditions. Some 114,000 detainees benefited from the ICRC’s rehabilitation of infrastructure, mainly water and

sanitation, in detention facilities in 11 countries. In emergencies, the ICRC ensured inmates received medical treatment and, in six countries, food

and/or nutritional supplements. In parallel, delegations encouraged and supported the authorities’ initiatives to upgrade detention conditions. In

Zimbabwe, for example, the severe malnutrition rate among some 10,000 detainees in 14 prisons dropped significantly between April and September

after the ICRC initiated therapeutic feeding programmes in cooperation with the Justice Ministry. In Uganda, with ICRC support, three prisons

introduced screening of all new detainees for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, staff and inmates were trained in related health and hygiene

issues, the relevant infrastructure was renovated, and the authorities were put in touch with other potential implementing partners.

To help ensure adequate medical and surgical care, the ICRC supported hospitals in various countries, including Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the DRC,

Guinea, Somalia, Uganda and Zimbabwe, providing, as needed, funds, supplies, staff training and infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance.

ICRC surgical teams worked in hospitals and/or as mobile field units in Chad, the DRC, Somalia and Sudan. During 2009, ICRC-supported hospitals

in Somalia alone treated 5,860 weapon-wounded people. In Uganda, the delegation wound down 3 years of support to the 202-bed Kitgum

Government Hospital, after providing the facility with the means to sustain services.

To boost the availability of physical rehabilitation services for war amputees and other disabled people, the ICRC supported 21 prosthetic/orthotic

centres located in Chad, the DRC, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. This included building, equipping and helping to manage South Sudan’s first

physical rehabilitation referral centre, which opened in Juba in January.

IHL promotion remained a cornerstone of ICRC activities in Africa. The aim was to prevent IHL violations and ensure that the authorities and all

weapon bearers endorsed the Movement’s Fundamental Principles and activities.

The ICRC engaged in dialogue on IHL and humanitarian issues with national, regional and international authorities, lent governments its expertise

to ratify IHL treaties and adopt relevant national laws, and sponsored the participation of officials in IHL events abr oad. This contributed, for

example, to the adoption of the African Union Convention on IDPs, which refers to IHL provisions and the ICRC’s mandate. At the national level,

Burkina Faso and Togo passed domestic legislation on the Mine Ban Convention, while Burundi and the CAR adopted revised penal codes

integrating IHL provisions.

Armed, security and police forces worked with the ICRC to incorporate IHL, international human rights law and humanitarian principles into their

training, doctrine and operations, while peacekeepers deployed on the continent were briefed on IHL. In firsts, DRC army instructors deployed in the

Kivus and Province Orientale were trained to teach IHL and Chad’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the ICRC signed an agreement detailing

IHL training programmes for officers and the rank and file. Brigades attached to the Economic Community of West African States and the Southern

African Development Community also incorporated IHL into their workshops and training exercises.

The 60th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the “Our world. Your move.” communication campaign gave National Societies and the

ICRC fresh impetus to stage events across Africa to enlist public and political support for IHL and the Movement. The ICRC’s Exploring

Humanitarian Law programme was ongoing in secondary schools in Burundi, Cameroon, the Comoros, Djibouti, Mauritius, Senegal, the Seychelles

and South Africa. In universities across Africa, delegations ran seminars and competitions, gave presentations and provided materials to support IHL

research and teaching.