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ICRC activities in Eritrea: 2006 - 2007

04-06-2007 Operational Update

The ICRC opened its delegation in in 1998 and worked throughout the 1998 – 2000 conflict with Ethiopia, protecting and assisting persons affected by the conflict. Nowadays, the ICRC remains active in the country to contribute to alleviate the problems and the sufferings arising from this war and the continuous border stalemate.


Overview of the main ICRC activities in Eritrea 

In 2006, the ICRC maintained its focus on meeting the needs of people still affected by the 1998-2000 international armed conflict with Ethiopia. The ICRC main endeavour was to help victims of the conflict to restore their livelihood and become more self-sufficient. The activities focused therefore on contributing to ensuring the basic needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) still living in camps in the border areas, to facilitate the return of returnees or resettled people, as well as to alleviate the burden on resident communities hosting IDPs camps or resettled people.

In coordination with the relevant Eritrean authorities, activities were centred on providing water in rural areas, temporary shelter, essential household items as well as agricultural and veterinarian inputs. In order to enhance the surgical capacities in Gash Barka hospitals, in cooperation with the Minister of health, an ICRC surgical team started a surgical training for Eritrean medical doctors and anaesthetists in Barentu, Tesseney and Agordad hospitals. In cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Eritrea, efforts were also made to restore or maintain family links between relatives separated by the conflict through Red Cross Messages. As a neutral intermediary, the ICRC facilitated family reunifications for children and other vulnerable people and voluntary repatriations from Ethiopia or from Eritrea.

Main activities foreseen in 2007: 
The ICRC plans to continue theses activities in 2007, with an increased stress on returnee's communities and support for restoring their livelihood;

  • As the authorities plan to return or resettle the remaining 1998-2000 IDPs still living in camps in Debub and Gash Barka, the ICRC will concentrate on provision of sustainable water supply, temporary shelter and essential household items to facilitate their return (approximately 25.000 persons);
  • It will build/rehabilitate up to 450 housing units for returnee/resettled families.
  • Construct 1,000 improved mogogo ovens.
  • With community participation, it will continue to construct/rehabilitate water points or systems (boreholes, hand pumps, water-supply systems (mainly solar), ponds, and small dams), as well as rehabilitation of semi-urban water-supply systems (16 boreholes, 14 complete systems, 8 temporary or hand pump systems, 6 ponds, 10 check or sub-surface dams, 6 semi urban systems).
  • With the agreement of the relevant authorities, it will expand its Livestock Parasite Project to Southern Red Sea;
  • It will increase the number of hectares ploughed by tractor in zoba Debub (3,202 hectars, benefiting 5,649 households);
  • It will continue donkey and water bag distributions to vulnerable households, especially women headed, to facilitate household water supply (about 1000 donkeys and jirba, 1,000 households);
  • It will provide the material to build fuel-saving ovens to reduce deforestation in areas with large returnee/resettled populations (1,000 ovens).
Population in the border areas 



In collaboration with the Eritrean Water Resources Department (WRD), the ICRC initiated projects to provide an adequate supply of water to r esident communities in the border areas. Considering the fuel shortage and in order to limit running and maintenance costs, solar-powered water supply systems were favoured for all permanent supply systems. In addition, rain-harvesting and water-storage facilities such as dams or ponds were built alongside new water points. Beside providing water for cattle or small irrigation, such rain water harvesting systems contribute to the recharge of the boreholes, so ensuring a sustained water supply. Water supply systems in IDP camps and villages of return in the TSZ were upgraded to meet the increased demand.

In villages where water points were especially far, the ICRC started to distribute donkeys and bags to transport water to the most vulnerable, to enable them to increase the amount of water available in the household and save time for other activities, such as education or working in the fields.

 The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a neutral and independent, strictly humanitarian international organisation. Its mandate, recognised by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 on the protection of war victims, is to work for the respect of international humanitarian law in times of armed conflicts and to alleviate the suffering of the victims of such conflicts.  

  •  water points and systems built or upgraded for 56.065 border residents (16 solar powered systems, 6 water storage facilities, 7 hand pumps or motorised systems) as well as for 17.990 IDPs or returnees (13 solar power systems, 1 motorised system);  

  •  57 donkeys and 257 water bags distributed;  

  •  support to the Water Resource Authorities (courses on remote sensing and GIS, donation of material).  


 Shelter and essential household items  


Returnee families were assisted in Debub with the rehabilitation or construction of housing, with the ICRC providing materials, supervision and, in some cases, cash to hire qualified workers. The ICRC, together with the RCSE or other local partners, assisted returnee and resident families to construct energy efficient ovens, by providing training and key materials. Tarpaulins and ropes, blankets and soaps were distributed to displaced persons still living in camps in the TSZ, as well as to IDP camp and returnees.

  •  992 returnee families assisted to construct or rehabilitate their housing  

  •  essential household items (tarpaulins or tents, soap, blankets, kitchen sets and jerrycans) provided to 47,025 persons;  

  •  2.320 families supported to construct their energy efficient ovens (mogogos).  


 Boosting crop production  


A large proportion of the Eritrean people depend for their living on Agriculture. Agriculture depends heavily on rains and farmers have to catch up with the rainy season and prepa re their land accordingly. However, most families have shortage of manpower or cannot afford to pay for ploughing. To address this problem, the ICRC paid for tractors to plough the fields in selected villages within the return areas. Fields were ploughed once or twice depending on the type of soil, the timing of the rains and the choice of crop decided by the farmers. With the fair to good rains in 2006 and the well-done and well-timed ploughing, the people of these villages reaped a good harvest.

  •  1.826 hectares of land ploughed with tractor in 26 villages, benefiting 12.500 residents and returnees  

 Improving livestock productivity  


Initiated in Gash Barka zoba in 2005, this activity aims at protecting border residents'livestock against parasites, thus improving their health and resistance to drought. This parasite treatment project was expanded to Debub zoba in 2006, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. In the frame of a small restocking project, vulnerable people received goats and some community-based projects were implemented, on a cash for work basis.

  •  inoculation of 273.000 animals against parasites, benefiting 51.000 returnees and residents  

  •  202 goats distributed, benefiting vulnerable 40 households;  

  •  Cash for work project (rehabilitation of 1.3 km of road) benefiting 672 returnees  

Restoration / maintain of family links 

 Exchange of family news  


Since postal services and telecommunications do not function between Ethiopia and Eritrea, thousands of people continued to communicate with relatives across the border relying on the Red Cross Message (RCM), a free service run by the ICRC in cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Eritrea (RCSE). Children, elderly and sick people have also benefited upon their request the ICRC Family Reunion Program.

  •  11,954 RCMs distributed and 10,776 collected  

  •  39 persons reunited with their families in Eritrea and 38 persons reunited with their families in Ethiopia.  




The ICRC acted as a neutral humanitarian intermediary as a facilitator in the repatriation of Ethiopians willing to return to Ethiopia, or of Eritrean's willing to return to Eritrea. Four repatriations were organised in 2006 for Ethiopians wishing to return to Ethiopia, and five repatriations were organised for Eritreans coming from Ethiopia to Eritrea (four simultaneously with repatriation to Ethiopia). The ICRC advised the people willing to return on the proceedings to follow and provide transportation and basic supplies for the trip. Upon return to Eritrea, the repatriated Eritrean citizens received basic assistance for a short stay in a transit camp before going to their resettlement pl ace. Children and very vulnerable cases were offered transport back to their home.

  •  998 Ethiopians repatriated from Eritrea to Ethiopia and 83 Eritreans repatriated from Ethiopia to Eritrea.  

 Providing essential documents  


Equally as a neutral humanitarian intermediary, the ICRC helped retrieving essential documents such as education or work certificates that people living in Eritrea or in Ethiopia were not able to obtain by themselves, due to the lack of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

  •  167 documents forwarded from Eritrea and 8 from Ethiopia.  

 Detention visits  


In accordance with the Geneva Conventions and with the agreement of the authorities, the ICRC continued to visit regularly a small-numbered Ethiopian prisoner in prisons, transit camp and police stations. Visits are conducted on humanitarian grounds with the aim of assessing the conditions of detention and treatment. All visits are carried out in accordance with the ICRC's customary working procedures in co-operation with the relevant authorities. 

  => Main activities foreseen in 2007:  


 The ICRC plans to continue all theses activities in 2007.  


Surgical trainings 
  • by June 2006, 3 GPs with some previous surgical experience completed a two-month training program in general surgery with the ICRC team. In addition, the 3 GPs responsible of the surgical ward in the 3 hospitals of Gash Bark received the training for the whole year;
  • 260 operations were prepared and performed by the GPs in training, under the supervision of the ICRC team, which supervised as well as the preoperative assessment and postoperative follow up at the bed-side;
  • 3 refreshment courses were organized for a total of 56 anesthetists nurses from different hospitals in the country were given by an ICRC anesthetists, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health;
  • one “ABC Emergency Room Trauma Training Course" was conducted with some 24 Eritrean medical professionals selected by the Ministry of Health, together with 2 ICRC surgeons and 5 Eritrean instructors;
  • the anesthetists nurses of the 3 Gash Bark hospitals improved their skills especially in pediatric anesthesia, obstetric anesthesia, loco-regional blocks, post-operative care and anesthesia in emergency surgery; the ward nurses of Barentu hospital as well as 47 nursing students of the Nursing Teaching School of Barentu received lectures about pre and postoperative management of surgical patients;
  • the ICRC supported the Ministry of Health and Orotta Medical School to set up a post graduate curriculum in surgery;
  • essential medical items such as anesthesia supplies for pediatric patients and anesthesia machines were provided, as well as a logistic support to improve the link between Asmara and the remote Gash Bark areas (transport of medical supplies, equipments, emo-components, oxygen cylinders, etc…).

Surgical trainings  

At the start of 2006, an ICRC t eam consisting of one anaesthetist and one surgeon, together with the Ministry of Health, started a surgical training program to develop the capacity of medical personnel who could perform general emergency or elective surgery for the civilian population, including mine victims, especially at zoba level. This program targeted the general practitioners (GPs), anaesthetist nurses and wards nurses as well as nursing students in pre and post-operative management.

 => Main activities foreseen in 2007:  


 The ICRC plans to continue most of the above mentioned trainings, while increasing the scope of its surgical training.  

  • A team of 4 expatriates (one surgeon, one anaesthetist, on operation theatre nurse and one ward nurse) will be deployed in Barentu, in order to enhance the surgical capacities of the new Barentu referral hospital. Training will include emergency and elective surgery, anaesthesia, pre and postoperative management of surgical patients.

  • 2 trauma management courses will be organised with the Ministry of Health, one in Barentu and the other in Asmara.

Promotion of International Humanitarian Law 

Raising awareness of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) among the authorities, civilians, armed forces, police and international organisations is a key element of the ICRC's mandate. IHL, also known as the law of armed conflict, aims to minimize human suffering during armed conflict by limiting means and methods of combat and protecting those who are not, or are no longer, taking part in the fighting.

In 2006, in coordination with the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF), the ICRC gave two courses to EDF instructors in IHL (one “train the trainers” course for 22 instructors and one IHL refresher course to 9 already trained EDF instructors). An experienced EDF trainer participated as facilitator and trainer in both courses. It provided several books and leaflets on IHL to the Ministry of Defence. The ICRC sponsored as well EDF to send an officer to attend an IHL course in San Remo, Italy.

The ICRC has also increased awareness on IHL and ICRC activity by organising an information session to various local authorities and community representatives. Over 600 local authorities, such as local administrators, ministry representatives, immigration officers, police, military and community representatives followed an information session on IHL and ICRC. To increase awareness among students and various publics the ICRC donated two IHL library set to Asmara Public Library to serve as a reference materials.

 => Main activities foreseen in 2007:  


 The ICRC plans to continue all theses activities in 2007.  

  •  with the cooperation of the Ministry of Defence, it will organise again 1 train-the-trainer IHL course and 1 refresher IHL course in IHL, and will sponsor one officer for the San Remo IHL course;  

  •  for the first time, it will organise an advanced IHL course for EDF military legal advisers;  

  •  it will continue to brief national and local authorities, as well as UNMEE staff on IHL and ICRC activities;  

  •  it will provide IHL reference materials to libraries and academic institutions;  

  •  it will participate to public events such as the Asmara book fair, the World water day, the Women day, the Red Cross and Red Crescent day, etc….  

Cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Eritrea 

The purpose of the ICRC cooperation activities is to enhance the capacity of the Red Cross Society of Eritrea (RCSE) to fulfil its responsibilities in providing humanitarian services for the community. In 2006, the ICRC continued to support the RCSE to build its capacity in the fields of first aid and emergency preparedness, restoring family links through Red Cross Messages (RCM) and tracing, as well as mine risk education and promotion of humanitarian principles. To this aim, the ICRC provided the RCSE with funds, materials, training and other technical back up.

In 2006 With the ICRC support and other Red Cross / Red Crescent partners, the RCSE:

  • ran a nationwide ambulance service that transported thousands people to hospitals and clinics countrywide; (some zobas have also began contributing to the costs);

  • conducted first aid courses to over 1.400 police personals, industrial workers, transport drivers and students all over the country; provided first aid service in different public events;

  • maintain a national network of volunteers and focal point to collect and distribute Red Cross Messages;

  • promoted humanitarian principles and conducted Mine Risk Education (MRE) sessions for over 50.000 students, community members and government officials.

 => Main activities foreseen in 2007:  


 The ICRC plans to continue all theses  

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