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Sudan: Responding to humanitarian needs in Darfur and Abyei

08-04-2008 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

ICRC teams carried out nearly 80 field missions in more than 60 rural areas throughout South, North and West Darfur during the first three months of the year, despite the prevailing insecurity and despite having only sporadic access to certain areas.

Besides monitoring respect for international humanitarian law and maintaining its dialogue with all the parties to the conflict in Darfur, the ICRC provided health care and access to water. It also continued to assist rural communities in maintaining or re-establishing traditional means of livelihood in areas where the local economy had been disrupted by lack of access to agricultural fields and markets, or to nomadic migration routes. Working in cooperation with volunteers from the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, the ICRC was able to restablish contacts among family members who had been separated from one another.

In response to the ongoing tensions in the region, the ICRC also strengthened its presence in central Sudan (South Kordofan, North Bahr El Gazal, Unity and Upper Nile states). It carried out its activities in behalf of victims of violence in close cooperation with the Sudanese Red Crescent.

  Humanitarian consequences of hostilities in West Darfur  

Since December 2007, civilians in northern West Darfur have been suffering the consequences of an increase in hostilities. This intensification of fighting has also made it more difficult for humanitarian organizations to provide necessary assistance.

During the fighting on 8 February, a Sudanese employee of the ICRC was killed at the ICRC’s office in Seleia. The exact circumstances of his death are yet to be established.

An immediate consequence of the fighting was that thousands of people inside western Darfur, and in the Birak region of neighbouring Chad, were displaced. A team from the ICRC’s delegation in Chad was able to reach Birak and, in coordination with other humanitarian agencies, provide essential emergency assistance: tarpaulins, blankets, mats, jerrycans and soap .  

The ICRC continuously reminds all the parties to the conflict of their obligation to respect civilians and civilian property and to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers. It reports all alleged violations of international humanitarian law in the strictest confidence to the proper authorities.

  Responding to needs in South Darfur  

The ICRC was able to respond quickly to humanitarian needs created by a clash that occurred on 27 February in the Buram locality of Assunta in South Darfur. It provided medical supplies - antibiotics, analgesics and dressings - to the Buram hospital where 26 wounded persons were treated. It also distributed emergency food rations to 500 displaced families who had taken refuge in the neighbouring village of Rumis. In addition, the Sudanese Red Crescent provided 400 sacks of sorghum, 100 tents, 20 sacks of sugar, and emergency medical supplies to more than 3,400 persons affected by the clashes in Assunta.

  Clashes in South Kordofan and North Bahr El Gazal  

Acting in coordination with the Sudanese Red Crescent, the ICRC provided assistance to victims of violence in both South Kordofan and in North Bahr El Gazal - in the region around Abyei and, since the outbreak of fighti ng at the end of December, in the area between Meiram (South Kordofan), and Aweil (North Bahr El Gazal).

Hundreds of wounded and dozens of dead are reported on both sides. An unspecified number of people were displaced by the clashes and the tensions in the region, adding to the suffering of a population that is already vulnerable. Access to water, grazing lands and markets has become restricted for residents and for nomads. Because trucks carrying goods cannot get through to the area, prices have risen sharply. " People still fear for their security, and their already difficult economic situation could deteriorate further if this tense situation continues, " said Fabrizio Carboni, deputy head of the ICRC’s delegation in Sudan.

In Meiram in South Kordofan, the Sudanese Red Crescent established a unit of volunteers at the beginning of January. The ICRC donated emergency surgical kits - dressings, infusion kits, antibiotics and disinfectants - to the Mujlad hospital for the benefit of 50 war-wounded. Volunteers from the Sudanese Red Crescent, trained by the ICRC a week before the clashes, provided first aid and assisted in the evacuation of the wounded during the emergency. The ICRC also donated 200 kg of drugs and medical supplies to the Mujlad hospital.

In Aweil in North Bahr El Gazal, the ICRC trained 18 volunteers in emergency first-aid procedures and equipped them with first-aid kits, which proved to be very useful during the most recent clashes at the beginning of March. The ICRC also donated medical supplies to the Akuem and Juba hospitals where evacuated wounded were treated, and distributed emergency household items - blankets, collapsible jerry cans, mosquito nets, bed sheets, soap and tarpaulins - to 300 families displaced by the violence in War Nyiel.

  Aid for nomadic communities in Darfur  

The ICRC continued its animal-vaccination campaigns, in close cooperation with the Sudanese Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, to support nomadic pastoralists in Darfur.

In early March, it completed a major vaccination campaign which began in November 2007 in North Darfur, in the areas around Kabkabyia and Kutum.

" We vaccinated a total of 338,000 animals against viral and bacterial diseases. This effort should help secure the livelihoods of 14,700 nomadic households whose main asset and means of survival are their livestock, " said Vera Eames, ICRC livestock specialist.

The vaccinations are continuing now in southern Darfur. Besides the vaccination campaigns, the ICRC also trains animal-health workers to provide basic veterinary care in their own communities. Two refresher-training courses were held in Zalingei and Nyala for nearly 50 trainees serving 8,000 nomadic households in remote areas in the region.

  Providing access to clean water  

The dry season, which lasts, roughly, from October to June, is a time of anxiety in Darfur as people depend on underground sources of water, for their own needs and for their livestock, when seasonal watercourses dry up.

The ICRC rehabilitates water supply systems, repairs hand-pumps, restores deep wells and assists in digging wells by hand. In some farming communities, it also assists in building the spring catchments and in repairing the irrigation pumps that enable communities to ensure that their fields are properly irrigated.

The ICRC collaborates with local water committees, and supports training for community members in repairing hand-pumps and digging wells. It donates tools and spare parts to trained community members so that they may maintain their water points by themselv es.

Since the beginning of 2008, the ICRC has rehabilitated 181 major water points (170 hand- pumps, 9 water yards and 2 spring catchments) that serve about 260,000 people.

  Health assistance in Darfur and in southern Sudan  

Besides maintaining rural clinics and its mobile field surgical team, and organizing vaccination campaigns for women and children in Darfur, the ICRC also trains fighters and civilians in first-aid methods, to enable them to act decisively in emergency situations.

In the past three months, eight first-aid training sessions were given to about 130 persons – civilians (including Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers) and fighters in Al Jeneina, Sayah, Tawila, Aweil, Bir Meza and Fulla.

ICRC immunization teams organized a third round of polio, measles and tetanus toxoid vaccinations for about 1,700 women and children in 10 fariks (temporary nomadic villages) and seven villages in North Darfur. In western Darfur, the ICRC supported the Ministry of Health in vaccinating more than 1,500 women and children, carried out medical consultations for more than 500 persons, and provided vitamins for more than 1,300 people.

In southern Sudan, the ICRC’s assistance for the Juba teaching hospital ended in December 2007, when the Ministry of Health for the government of southern Sudan took over responsibility for the hospital. Now the ICRC’s medical assistance in southern Sudan is concentrated in the area of physical rehabilitation.

The ICRC also provided medical supplies, in the form of dressings, to the hospital in Malakal following the clashes that took place in Khorfulus on 7 February.

  Seed distribution  

The distribution of seed to 36,000 traditional farming households and more than 3,000 semi-nomadic households affected by the conflict has just got under way. The distribution will last throughout April and May, before the start of the rainy season, in eastern and western Jabal Marra and in some areas of South Darfur.

The aim of the seed distribution is to enable people to carry on their traditional farming activities and to avoid becoming dependent on external food aid, to boost their incomes, to diversify their diet and to restore damaged or lost means of production. Beneficiaries will receive seed and food-protection rations.

  Promoting humanitarian principles  

In December and February, Dr Ameur Zemmali, ICRC legal adviser, organized a series of well-attended conferences on international humanitarian law and Sharia law in Khartoum, Al Fashir and Nyala. Those in attendance - academics, students, journalists, religious leaders and NGO representatives - were given the opportunity to discuss how Sharia law incorporated humanitarian principles, and to ask questions about the ICRC's work in Muslim contexts globally.

  For further information, please contact:
  Iris Meierhans, ICRC Khartoum, tel: +249 9121 70576
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 17