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Kampala: ICRC supports African Union initiative to address challenges of internal displacement

21-10-2009 News Release 09/210

Geneva (ICRC) – Tackling the problem of internal displacement in all its dimensions requires a huge concerted effort at both the State and international level, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The organization commends the commitment of the African Union to addressing the issue on the African continent by putting forward the first-ever international treaty for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

" Internal displacement is one of the most daunting humanitarian challenges of our day, and no one would deny that Africa is the hardest-hit continent in terms of numbers of IDPs, " said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger, who will attend the African Union Special Summit of Heads of State and Government on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Kampala, Uganda, from 22 to 23 October. The summit is designed to address the challenge of forced displacement in Africa.

The president will highlight the importance of working to prevent displacement, stressing that that the best way to achieve this during an armed conflict is to respect and protect civilians in all circumstances. He will emphasize that internal displacement is often the consequence of violations of international humanitarian law and of failure to comply with other laws intended to protect people in situations of violence, such as human rights law.

" It is essential to promote self-reliance among vulnerable communities to help avoid displacement and, where necessary, to improve the community's capacity to host IDPs by strengthening their ability to meet their basic needs, " said Mr Kellenberger. " The ICRC, for example, provides seed and tools, puts existing water systems back into operation and provides veterinary services to help achieve this. "

The ICRC works in partnership with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in several African countries. In 2008, the ICRC assisted 2.4 million people, most of whom were displaced or members of host communities, in Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Worldwide, some 3.77 million displaced people benefited from ICRC humanitarian activities in 36 countries.

  For further information, please contact:
  Layla Berlemont Shtewi, ICRC Kampala, tel: +256 41 423 0517 or +256 77 222 1994
  Michelle Rockwell, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2412 or +41 079 251 9311