Eritrea - ICRC activities - April to August 2002
22-10-2002 Operational Update
4 main assistance actions are developed here.
Going home – the repatriation of POWs
The good news for the last Prisoners of War (POWs) regularly visited by ICRC delegates in Nakfa camp came unexpected. It was the Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki who told ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger in Asmara on 20 August that he would order the release and repatriation of the POWs immediately, unilaterally and without any conditions.
One day after the announcement, the ICRC in Asmara sent its field delegates and translators to Nakfa deten-tion camp, where private interviews were held with each of the remaining POWs in order to ascertain their willingness to return to their country of origin, Ethiopia. On 27 August, the authorities transferred the 279 POWs willing to be repatriated from Nakfa detention center to a school in the town of Embaderho near Asmara and provided them with new clothes and medical checks.
Chorus in the bus
The repatriation day started early for the POWs, the detaining authorities as well as for the ICRC team and Red Cross volunteers who took part in the operation: at 4 a.m. five buses and two ambulances were made ready for the journey to Mereb bridge, which is the crossing used for repatriations of prisoners and civilians between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Some POWs started to sing and to laugh when their buses left their last accomodation site in Eritrea. The joy and excitement grew when the convoy reached the Mereb river. Their patience was tested during two hours needed to finalize the formalities for the hand-over to the Eth iopian authorities. At 11 a.m., the prisoners rushed to the Mereb bridge, passed the UNMEE checkpoint and ran to the trucks waiting on the Ethiopian side. For them, it meant to return back home after several years of detention. Some kissed the ground right after passing the border…
Providing shelter for the displaced persons
Before the start of the rain season, the ICRC provided tents and tarpaulin sheets to cover the shelter needs of some 65’000 internal displaced persons (IDPs) and expellees, living in 18 camps in the Zobas Gash Barka, Debub and Northern Red Sea.
In the summer of 2001, many people were expecting that most of the camps erected years ago to house internal displaced persons (IDPs) and expellees would be emptied soon, as the population would be able to return to their villages within the Temporary Security Zone.
Camps still used
But at the beginning of 2002, it became clear that the around 65’000 concerned persons would have to live during yet another rain season in their tent camps.
Therefore, the need to be properly sheltered against the harsh weather conditions of the wet season was imperative. After an assessment made together with the administrators of the 18 camps, the ICRC brought in some 3700 tents and nearly 11’000 tarpaulin sheets into the country and distributed them from May until July to the IDPs and expellees in the camps, which are deployed in the Zobas Gash Barka, Debub and Northern Red Sea. Around 15’000 families benefited from the shelter programme.
According to the needs
Tents were provided to newly arrived families as well as to those whose tents hand been severely damaged during the last years.
Those families which still had got a tent but which suffered from leaking spots in their tent received a plastic sheet. The ICRC continues to provide shelter to newly arrived IDP families.
Emergency items for the victims of war
Apart from providing shelter, the ICRC has distributed 12’000 jerrycans (picture), 1500 kitchen sets, 5000 blankets and more than 400’000 pieces of soap from January to August 2002.
Drinking water for people in war-affected zones
Access to safe water is a general problem for the population in many parts of the country. The ICRC Water and Habitat department rehabilitates water supply systems in the areas affected by the recent war – be it for the resident population or the IDPs living in camps.
Water for IDPs…
Around 40’000 IDPs living in 8 camps in Gash Barka and Debub have benefited from the ICRC water programme. In Korokon camp (Gash Barka) for instance, a new borehole has been drilled and a submer-sible pump installed. Seve-ral hand pumps were continuously maintained.
In May Wurray (Debub), a new generator has been installed, and distribution points renewed.
When necessary, people have received safe water thanks to daily water trucking, like in the Dembe Doran camp (Gash Barka).
… and for residents
Not only the displaced persons, also resident population living within the Temporary Security Zone have been granted an improved access to water. In Debub, 13 hand pumps have been repaired. In Zeban-Awale and Rokoito, rehabilitated water supply systems have been handed over to the population.
In Gash Barka, a new generator as well as a pump and a pipeline reservoir have been installed in Antore village.
In Bushuka, a new water system is being implemented. In the meantime, a water truck coming from Shambiko brings the needed drinking water to the residents.
Two health stations in Gash-Barka reopened
During the border conflict with Ethiopia (1998-2000), several health stations in the border region had been damaged. In Gash Barka, the ICRC has rehabilitated the health stations and the houses for the health personnel in the villages Antore and Awgaro. Medical equipment was also donated. Since June, both stations are opened again for the patients.
Training medical and paramedical staff
The ICRC supports the authorities to train medical and paramedical staff who treat war victims. Its medical programme focuses on surgeons, physiotherapists and orthopedic technicians.
Since February, the ICRC is training orthopedic technicians in the orthopedic workshop in Keren on the ICRC polypropylene technology for artificial legs and other orthopedic devices. In the first three months, 36 prostheses and 8 orthoses for 40 patients have been produced.
Physio and surgery
By end of June, a second group of 20 associate physiotherapists have concluded their exams successfully. They had been trained jointly by the ICRC and the Ministry of Health.
In July, ICRC surgeons from Geneva trained Eritrean physicians in Asmara in lifesaving techniques.
Ambulance service checked
In July, two ICRC consultants assessed the ambulance service of the Red Cross Society of Eritrea (RCSE). They made recommendations to the Red Cross Society in order to strengthen the management and service and to improve its sustainability.
Lobbying for the limits of warfare
Teach the rules of war during peacetime ! Fourteen senior officials from the Eritrean Defence Forces and the Police took part in an ICRC seminar about International Humanitarian Law in July (see picture). The ICRC communication department teaches the limits of warfare among arms carriers, academic circles at the University of Asmara and the general public.