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Nepal: ICRC activities January to September 2006

30-09-2006 Operational Update

Following the "People's Movement" of April 2006, the political situation in Nepal has drastically changed. Talks between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party Nepal Maoist (CPN-M) concluded in November in a six point agreement to end the conflict and restore peace.

During this transition period, the ICRC has focused its programmes on tracing missing persons, the restoration of family links, assistance to the wounded and to amputees, the provision of safe drinking water in rural areas and in jails and the support, through micro-economic initiatives, to families most in need.

In the new political climate the ICRC continues its efforts to promote and develop international humanitarian law in Nepal. This includes encouraging the authorities to ratify IHL treaties and ensure their full implementation into domestic law.

The ICRC continues to work closely with the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS).

 
Protection  
 

    

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has reshaped its protection activities to reflect the new realities on the ground. Since May 2006, the issue of the missing has been prioritised.

During the period under review, the ICRC has continued to collect information on those who disappeared during the conflict. It has also re-visited most of the families of the persons who reported the disappearance of relatives over the last 5 years to obtain potential new information.

Through this process and thanks to public appeals in newspapers and on the radio, it has also documented new cases. All names of persons being sought have been submitted to the concerned authorities and the CPN-M and de legates have been able to inform some families about the fate of their relatives.

Since January 2006, 504 cases have been solved. At the end of September, the ICRC was still actively searching for 705 persons, including 34 minors and 71 women.

Delegates have also collected information about locations of graves in view of a potential future process of exhumation under the responsibility of the authorities concerned.

The delegation has taken a number of diplomatic steps with some new State/CPN-M bodies, such as the Interim Constitution Drafting Committee or the Ceasefire Code of Conduct National Monitoring Committee to raise the issue of the disappeared and of their families.

Thanks to the peace process, the number of alleged exactions committed against the population has diminished. ICRC delegates have investigated these cases and made the necessary representations to the authorities concerned and to the CPN-M.

In the period under review, the ICRC has registered 31 children associated with the CPN-M. It is tracing their parents and will assess the security situation before organizing family reunification. In the meantime, they are housed in Children's Home in Kathmandu.

Since January 2006, 14 children have been reunited with their families, while 70 red cross messages have been exchanged between the families and the children. The ICRC has also financed family visits every two months for the children who cannot yet return home.

Detention activities are at a very low level. Almost all those detained by the Security Forces in relation with the conflict have been released with the exception of those convicted under common law charges. ICRC delegates continue to visit them.

Visits have also been carried out to those detained by the CPN-M on various charges. The objective of t he visits is to assess the conditions of detention, the treatment of the detainees and the respect of their fundamental judicial guarantees.

From January to September 2006, ICRC delegates visited 213 governmental detention places (jails, police stations and army camps). Two hundred and eighty nine visits were carried out and 609 detainees were seen. Delegates also visited 31 detainees in 13 places under the control of the CPN-M. Some of these visits have been performed together with ICRC health delegates.

With the help of Nepal Red Cross, volunteers 1,075 Red Cross Messages have been exchanged, including 437 from and to persons detained, allowing relatives to keep in contact with each other. The number of RCMs exchanged has been decreasing since April due to the massive release of persons detained in relation with the conflict.

Unexploded ordnance remains a problem in Nepal with the many fatal incidents involving children in particular. The ICRC continues to collect information about this issue.

    

 
Assistance 
 

 Medical  

Activities have focused on the treatment for the victims of the conflict, with support for strategically located medical facilities.

Medical supplies (dressing materials, essential medicines, x-ray films, etc.) and instruments have been donated to the TU Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, the Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalganj and to other medical facilities. In April, during the period of unrest, the ICRC provided the main hospitals in Kathmandu with supplies to treat 1,000 injured.

A total of 151 people undergoing medical treatment in various hospitals received ICRC financial support for transportation expenses. Similarly, 11 patients who had undergone surgical interventions were also supported.

From January to July 2006, the ICRC provided first aid and war surgery training to 139 medical staff. These training sessions were discontinued in August as the peace process took hold.

An ICRC physiotherapist continued the training programme at the Orthopaedic Workshop in the Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara during August and September. A total of 102 lower limb prostheses, 9 orthoses and 40 pairs of crutches were distributed.

 Economic security  

A total of 1,447 households in 34 districts (8,202 individuals) benefited from non-food item assistance (blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, buckets, clothes, material) in the period under review. These articles were distributed in cooperation with the NRCS. In addition, 20 households benefited from micro-economic initiatives.

 Water and habitat  

The ICRC is implementing 21 projects to improve the water supply, sanitation facilities and other environmental structures.

Projects are implemented throughout the country in close collaboration with the Prison Management Department at District and National levels. ICRC engineers also provide expertise and recommendations to the penitentiary authorities to facilitate the rehabilitation process in the country's prisons.

In addition, an agreement with the Energy Research Centre of Tribhuvan University has been signed and leading experts are working together with the ICRC to implement bio-gas, methane and briquette bio-fuels for improve d stoves, solar systems and lighting methods to improve living conditions of the detainees.

The ICRC is also active in rural areas where access to drinking water has been compromised by the conflict. In Jumla District an extensive rehabilitation of drinking water schemes in seventeen villages is nearing completion. The project also includes the provision of community latrines and the repair of an irrigation system.

In Taplejung District, the Wathab team gave a three-day workshop covering water and sanitation issues and the ICRC's activities to representatives of twenty-seven villages. Tools and spare parts were also distributed. Rehabilitation needs are being assessed by communities and the information will be provided to the ICRC to enable it to decide on the necessary steps to be taken.

Further workshops and interventions are planned in Dailekh, Kalikot and Sarlahi districts. One project involves the construction of a new water system for the district hospital of Kalikot. The Wathab projects are implemented in cooperation with the Nepal Red Cross Society.

    

 
Promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) / Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) 
 

During Nepal's recent internal armed conflict the ICRC constantly urged all parties to respect the law. The ICRC continues to raise awareness of - and respect for – IHL/LOAC in Nepal. To this end, ICRC conducted presentations on IHL/LOAC for the armed security forces, the CPN-M, NRCS personnel, representatives of government authorities and the civil society.

In the changed political situation of Nepal, the ICRC is focussing its activities on raising awareness on specific aspects of IHL, e.g. the mi ssing, returnees and children. The ICRC will also intensify its efforts to encourage the authorities concerned to ratify several outstanding IHL instruments and incorporate them into national legislation.

Within this framework, the ICRC intensified its efforts to increase the capacity of the Nepalese Army (NA), Armed Police Force (APF) and the Nepal Police to train their respective members.

Between May and August four courses for instructors were conducted.

  • a six-day course for 26 members of the Nepal Police and four members of the APF at the National Police Academy;

  • a ten-day course for 25 members of the NA at NA Headquarters in Kathmandu;

  • two ten-day courses for 62 members of the APF in Kathmandu.

Participants comprised both junior and senior officers who will be involved in IHL/LOAC dissemination within their respective headquarters and units located throughout Nepal.

The ICRC also conducted a series of four IHL/LOAC presentations for members of the No 11 Aviation Brigade at Kathmandu Airport.

Numerous discussions on IHL, the ICRC’s activities and its mandate were held throughout Nepal with representatives of the CPN-M.

The ICRC also continues its work with academic and professional organizations to promote IHL in Nepal, organizing several training sessions for lawyers, teachers and journalists.

 
Cooperation with the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS)  
 

    

The ICRC provides both financial and technical assistance to help the NRCS promote IHL and the Fundamental Principles of the Movement, supporting the production of radio programming, newsletters and reports.

It provides training sessions designed to ensure volunteer safety in accessing victims of conflict and provides first-aid training for volunteers.

To prevent injuries from explosive devices, the ICRC, in close cooperation with the NRCS, is conducting a Mine Risk Education (MRE) programme in 20 conflict-affected districts. A total of 40 junior/youth members were trained as focal persons on basic MRE for over 10,000 schoolchildren and adults in community groups.

Given the importance of the Red Cross as a symbol of protection, particularly in conflict situations, the NRCS continued its campaign to raise awareness of this issue and to eradicate its misuse. The ICRC contributed to this campaign by providing financial support and training to NRCS personnel and volunteers across the country.