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Nepal: ICRC delivers medical supplies for war-wounded

30-11-2001 News Release 01/62

Geneva/Kathmandu (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivered medicines and a kit for treating up to 100 war-wounded to the Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalgunj, some 600 km from Kathmandu, on 29 November. The surgical kit contains instruments, antibiotics, sterilizers and dressing material. The Bheri hospital was chosen to receive these supplies because of its capacity to perform war surgery and its geographic location in mid-western Nepal, where several clashes have recently taken place.

Fighting between Maoist insurgents and Nepalese police and army units broke out on 23 November after the collapse of a four-month-old ceasefire. At least 200 people have died and several dozen have so far been wounded, according to local sources. The heaviest fighting took place in the Sulukhumbu region east of Kathmandu, at the entrance to the Himalayan Trail. There have also been sporadic clashes in other parts of the country, particularly in the mid-western and western regions under the control of the Maoists.

The ICRC has been working in Nepal since 1998 and had already carried out a survey of 64 medical facilities throughout the kingdom in order to be prepared for such an escalation. " We are able to distribute assistance based on needs, " said Jean-Jacques Bovay, head of the ICRC delegation in Kathmandu. " But we should be able to visit the facilities and monitor the distribution and use of the supplies, " he added, referring to a standard ICRC procedure.

The surgical kit was delivered to the Bheri hospital in coordination with the Health Ministry's Hospitals Mass Casualties Management, which has agreed to the ICRC continuing its assessments of various medical facilities in order to provide support for those wounded in the conflict.

In August 1998, acting on the basis of its right of humanitarian initiative, the ICRC requested permission from the Nepalese government to carry out protection work in connection with the security situation. To date, its main activities in Nepal have been to protect persons detained in relation to the conflict, monitor the needs of the wounded and sick, and assess the health-care system's capacity. The ICRC has also spread knowledge of the rules of humanitarian law among combatants and the civilian population.