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Bulletin No. 41 – Sudan

13-04-2006 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field: the ICRC is again able to work in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, after an upsurge of violence made access impossible. It is preparing to distribute essential household items to affected families.

 Precarious situation for the people of Jebel Marra  

   
  ©ICRC/V. Miranda/sd-e-00431    
 
  A father comforts his son, who was operated on by an ICRC surgical team.    
    Since the upsurge of violence in the Jebel Marra area of Western Darfur at the end of January 2006, the ICRC has been working hard to gain access to the inhabitants. After several attempts that failed owing to the fragile security situation, staff eventually reached the northern part of the Jebel Marra, where they assessed the needs of more than 60,000 people affected by the fighting. Half of them have fled their homes. These represent only some of the victims of the armed clashes that have been occurring in the Jebel Marra since the start of the year. Exacerbating the insecurity is the forbidding nature of the region's mountainous terrain, which forced the ICRC team to complete the final leg of their journey on foot along with donkeys and camels.

The fighting that began this year in the area has been characterized by a number of attacks on settlements. These have resulted in widespread displacement of the resident population, most of whom have moved to more secure, inhabited areas in the mountains. The violence forced all humanitarian organizations to evacuate their staff. For months the ICRC and other aid agencies were unable to return owing to the continuing insecurity. Only in recent weeks have the ICRC and a few other organizations been able to reach part of the affected area and to assess the need for humanitarian action.

Given the relatively good harvest in 2005 in what is regarded as one of the most fertile areas of Darfur, and thanks to the distributions carried out until mid-January 2006, the food situation is acceptable. It is nevertheless of utmost importance to monitor the situation closely over the coming months. If it is impossible to access the land and cultivate fields, the situation could gradually deteriorate and add to the already significant number of Darfuris wholly dependent on food aid.

The ICRC is currently planning to distribute essential household items such as blankets, tarpaulin and cooking sets to the displaced. The organization's main concerns at the moment are to monitor developments, assist those in need and determine any requirements for humanitarian aid among the affected population that it has not yet reached. To do this the ICRC will need regular and safe access to the area. Moreover, the approaching rainy season will add to the logistical difficulty of working in such a remote area.

The rise in violence has caused a sharp increase in restrictions on the movements of people and goods all over Darfur. Entire communities have little access to essential health care, and markets are increasingly depleted, which drives up the prices of local produce. Some areas are already suffering food scarcity, while the local economy steadily deteriorates.

 Families reunited  

Twenty-year-old Fatima from Darfur lost her husband and found herself stranded alone with her four young children in the Treguine refugee camp in Chad. Fatima eventually moved out of the camp and found a family in the town of Abéché that was willing to give her shelter. However, with the rising violence in eastern Chad making it ever more difficult for the resident population to cope economically, Fatima decided that she would be better off returning to Sudan and, with ICRC help, managed to re-establish contact with her husband's family in Khartoum. Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made unreachable by armed conflict) were exchanged and plans were made to be reunited with her in-laws.

Together with Fatima and her young family, nine other Sudanese nationals have left different refugee cam ps in Chad since the previous ICRC bulletin and travelled back to Sudan to be reunited with their families in Kutum (Northern Darfur), Geneina (Western Darfur) and Nyala (Southern Darfur). Apart from facilitating the renewed contact between the separated family members, the ICRC also provided the returnees with transport to their final destinations.

   
   
 
  Sudan: ICRC action in the first quarter of 2006
 
  • repaired or upgraded hand pumps in all three Darfur states for a total number of 87,750 beneficiaries and repaired or upgraded water-supply systems for some 80,000 beneficiaries;

  • as part of Juba Teaching Hospital's response to the outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea, helped the facility install an emergency water supply in the isolation ward in order to admit cholera patients;

  • in coordination with other humanitarian organizations set up four additional cholera-treatment centres, overhauled the water-treatment plant in Malakal and repaired the plant's intake in order to supply 10,000 l itres of water per day to the centre there;

  • treated 448 patients at its three limb-fitting and rehabilitation centres in Sudan (Khartoum, Lokichokio and Nyala) and produced 328 prostheses and 201 orthoses;

  • visited eight different places of detention, delivered 44 Red Cross messages to detainees and collected 39, issued 65 attestations of detention to former detainees previously visited by the ICRC and financially assisted seven detainees after their release;

  • continued to hold confidential discussions on the protection of conflict victims with all parties, at all levels, both in Khartoum and in the areas of ICRC operations.

   
     
 Field surgical team  

In March, the ICRC's field surgical team was deployed eight times and operated on 41 patients. The team has been mainly active in the area of Northern Darfur and has twice carried out emergency missions to Gereida (Southern Darfur), where it helped the local health authorities treat people with severely wounded patients.

 Southern Sudan cholera outbreak  

The situation has stabilized in the cities of Yei, Juba and Malakal. The ICRC has continued to support MSF and UNICEF, and flew 7.5 tonnes of medical supplies to Malakal at the end of March. In Juba the number of cases has consistently fallen in recent weeks. However, close monitoring is essential as the brunt of the rainy season is approaching and the illness seems to be spreading in other areas of southern Sudan.

    

 Strengthening respect for international humanitarian law  

A core part of the ICRC's mandate is to help States party to the Geneva Conventions to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law. The purpose of that law being to reduce unnecessary suffering during conflict, it specifically governs the conduct of hostilities, setting out rules to protect civilians and others not taking part in the fighting, such as the wounded, sick or detained. To this end, the ICRC in Sudan has a wide range of ongoing activities aimed at strengthening humanitarian law, enhancing awareness and knowledge of the law and, ultimately, improving compliance.

During two weeks of intensive activity jointly organized by the ICRC and a network of 16 universities that teach and promote international humanitarian law, a number of presentations, seminars and round-tables were held. These events included a range of sessions involving senior officials from government, the judiciary, the police and other security services, and the national committee on international humanitarian law. They dealt with the law itself and related topics such as the International Criminal Court and ways of strengthening international humanitarian rules. There was a clear interest in better understanding these subjects and an acknowledgement of their relevance in Sudan today.

At the same time a week-long course on humanitarian law and principles was being conducted in El Gederef for 25 senior police officers in the country's eastern states. In Khartoum, a similar course was organized for two dozen officials from the national security service. Both courses are examples of the ICRC fostering the ability of policing and other security organizations to train their own personnel in humanitarian law and to help them integrate the law's main principles into their operational procedures.

 
 

    

  For further information, please contact:
  Andrea Koenig, ICRC Khartoum, tel: + 249 9 121 37764
  Marco Jiménez Rodríguez, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271