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Sudan bulletin No. 18 - 4 November 2004

04-11-2004 Operational Update

Report on ICRC activities in the field

 Tracing activities  

On 26 October, 44 children and 10 elderly people were reunited with family members from whom they had been separated by the war in southern Sudan. This was the culmination of a two-year process involving over 50 ICRC staff in seven different locations in Sudan and Kenya. The separated relatives were reunited by means of an airlift between various parts of southern Sudan and Nyala, in southern Darfur. This was the third operation of its kind to be carried out since November 2003. On 23 October, two elderly people were brought from Juba to Yei county to be reunited with their families.

" The process was far more complicated than it appears, " explained André Picot, ICRC protection coordinator in Sudan. " First of all, we had to restore contact between people who had lost touch because of the war and who found themselves on different sides of the front lines. Then we had to carry out lengthy negotiations with all the parties to the conflict to secure their agreement before the operation could go ahead. "

When children are involved in family reunification operations, the ICRC monitors their situation on a regular basis. In this case, the German Red Cross in Raja and the Danish Red Cross in Wau will also provide the children with health care.

In the past week, the ICRC has registered 38 Sudanese children who crossed the border into Chad. Altogether, the ICRC has registered 295 unaccompanied children since January and it is currently monitoring the situation of 1,500 children who are she ltering in Kenya and Ethiopia. The ICRC is focusing its efforts on vulnerable individuals, such as children, the elderly and the disabled.

Since the ICRC began its tracing activities in Sudan in 1992, a total of 139 people have been reunited with their families, both in areas held by the rebels and in those controlled by the government (Padak, Rumbek, Awada, Pochalla, Juba and Khartoum). Some of these people had found refuge as far away as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

One of the services offered as part of the ICRC's tracing operations is the delivery of Red Cross messages, in which people can send personal news to family members from whom they have been separated by armed conflict.

Trained staff and volunteers from the Sudanese Red Crescent and the ICRC collect and distribute these messages in over 250 places throughout Sudan. In southern Sudan alone, the ICRC has a network of over 100 volunteers – many of them from the National Society – who collect and distribute an average of 3,000 messages per month.

In Darfur, the ICRC started providing tracing services three months ago. This has enabled refugees in Chad to communicate with family members who stayed behind in Sudan. The demand for Red Cross message forms is rising as refugees in Chad learn about their existence. In the past week, over 1,000 messages were collected in Chad for distribution in Sudan.

A list of names is currently being drawn up in Chad and Darfur. People looking for family members can ask to have their names and addresses included on this list, which will be posted in different locations where internally displaced people and refugees have gathered. Anyone who recognizes the name of a relative on the list, which already includes 370 people, can contact that person by sending him or her a Red Cross message. This method has been successfully used in the former Yugoslavia and Angola.

The ICRC opened its first office in Khartoum in 1978. Since 2003, the organization has increased its protection and assistance activities in western Sudan and it currently has 2,000 employees – local and expatriate - working throughout the country.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Virginia de la Guardia, ICRC Khartoum, tel. ++249 9 121 377 64  

 Yves Heller, ICRC Yaoundé (for Chad), tel. ++237 222 58 59  

 Marco Jiménez, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 3217