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Sudan: the Red Cross Red Crescent response

05-11-2005 Feature

Sudan remains the ICRC's biggest operation worldwide, largely because of the ongoing conflict in the western province of Darfur. Alongside the Sudanese Red Crescent, the ICRC is involved in a range of activities to help the civilian population. Other participating national societies are also playing an important part.

 Spanish Red Cross (SRC)  

  ©Spanish Red Cross    
  Midwives who participated in a training programme provided by the Spanish Red Cross    
    The Spanish Red Cross is active in all three regions of Darfur, developing social programmes for women and childr en in camps that shelter over 130'000 displaced people.

" We are coordinating assistance in four camps in North Darfur, teaching women to read and write and to make and sell handicrafts and food, " says Mikel Usabiaga, responsible for the SRC in Sudan.

In West Darfur, the SRC and UNHCR are drilling boreholes, repairing pumps and setting up water committees to help improve local infrastructure. In Nyala, the state capital, the SRC is also working with street children. According to Usabiaga, " We are trying to get about two hundred boys and girls into the regular school system, where they can not only learn but are fed and have a place to play. If this isn’t possible, we offer training to help them become economically independent. "

On the health front, the SRC has projects at the Kalma camp and is supporting two primary health clinics at the Bilei camp in South Darfur, where large numbers of people arrived from southern Sudan eight years ago. “Living conditions in these camps are very difficult,” says Usabiaga, “but we try to contain health problems through regular vaccination campaigns and sanitation and hygiene programmes.”


 Danish Red Cross (DRC)  

  DRC water project in East Sudan    

The Danish Red Cross has provided relief to the Sudanese since the mid-eighties, when the drought-hit Sahel area required massive assistance. As a follow-up to this operation, the DRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) began an analysis of recurrent natural disasters and how to address them. One outcome was joint DRC-SRCS support for integrated community development projects in Derudeb and Haiya in the Red Sea State.

The ICRC has been the main recipient in Africa of Danish Red Cross humanitarian funds in recent years. The national society lent its support during the conflict in southern Sudan and, more recently, in the Kassala area and in Darfur. DRC staff seconded to the ICRC operation include nurses and doctors at Juba, Yirol, Darfur and the ICRC-run hospital in Lokichokio in northern Kenya.

Together, the DRC and the Norwegian Red Cross support two hospitals and two mobile clinics in Darfur, and the DRC hopes to start work on the construction of a training centre for the Nyala Branch of the SRCS in October.

 Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC)  

The Netherlands Red Cross has been active in South and East Sudan since 1983 as part of a balanced response to the country’s needs. " Only one of our four pr ojects is in Darfur, " explains Willem Reussing, representative of the NLRC in Khartoum. “We are supporting the district hospital in Zalingei in southern Darfur, rebuilding the isolation ward and constructing a new reception area. Our support also includes the donation of 20 new beds, and we are training a maintenance team to repair and preserve the buildings of the hospital that over 150'000 people depend upon. "

In the same health centre, the examination and diagnostic of diseases has been made easier by the donation of a new laboratory by the Norwegian Red Cross.

  Women constructing a hut in East Sudan    

At Juba in southern Sudan, the NLRC supports four primary health centres run by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS). " One expatriate supervises these projects, which offer displaced people easier access to medical facilities, " says Reussing. " We’re ready to establish up to ten such centres elsewhere if the new political situation brings an increase in returnees, " he adds.

Besides violence, East Sudan faces serious nutrition problems. According to World Food Programme figures, the percentage of malnourished people is 37% greater than the average for Darfur. The main beneficiaries of the NLRC’s activities are the Beja tribe. They have few resources and major needs. The aim is to provide sustainable ways of improving their quality of life. In Kassala, the NLRC supports a primary health clinic that is part of a SRCS initiative serving seven camps for displaced persons. It also has water and sanitation projects in these camps and on their outskirts – a very sensitive region, close to the Eritrea border and prone to drought and floods.

The NLRC plans to remain in Sudan to continue responding to the crisis and help build badly needed infrastructure.



 German Red Cross (GRC)  


" The aim of the German Red Cross is to maintain a balanced presence in Sudan, responding to immediate needs and contributing to infrastructure improvement in the most vulnerable regions, " according to Clemens von Heimendahl, head of the GRC delegation in Sudan.

The GRC arrived in Sudan more than 20 years ago. " We’ve helped during emergencies – especially natural disasters, " says von Heimendahl. “Nowadays, we run community gardens and mobile clinics, support orthopaedic centres and primary health clinics, and assist the Sudanese Red Crescent Socie ty (SRCS) with its internal operations and development. "

  Food distribution carried out by the German Red Cross in Darfur    

The GRC is rehabilitating old wells and drilling new ones in North Kordofan and developing community gardens in the South. Von Heimendahl explains: " We install the irrigation system and then distribute seeds and tools for working the soil. The food situation is worrying and these gardens – we provide maize, sorghum, sesame, ground nuts, watermelon and tomato seeds – are a good way of maintaining a certain level of nutrition. Garden produce can also be sold, generating income and allowing families to diversify their diet by exchanging food.”

Von Heimendahl lists other GRC projects: " We distribute medicine to health centres all over the country. We have a feeding centre at Tokar in the Red Sea State that helps up to 7'000 malnourished children each month. In West Darfur, we run a mobile clinic that provides assistance mainly to nomadic groups. Two other primary health units have been opened in Abu Shock and Al Salam camps, in North Darfur. "

The GRC is also the main contributor to several orthopaedic programmes at Dongola in North Sudan, at Kassala, Dalazin and Karduglia , in the East , and at Nyala in Darfur.

In southern Sudan, the GRC is working to re-establish basic health care facilities, including a community-based unit training people in first aid and hygiene promotion at Raja, and health facilities in the Nuba Mountains where a significant number of returnees are expected. Von Heimendahl estimates that as many as 40'000 people will benefit from this project.


 Saudi Red Crescent (SRC)  

  Food distribution    

The Saudi Red Crescent is providing conflict victims with medicine, water, food and non-food items in response to a call for help from the Sudanese government last year. “We’ve developed an important operation in Darfur,” says Saad Alsuw-Ayd, regional director of the SRC for Sudan and Chad. “Besides providing urgent, basic assistance, we brought a team of physicians from Saudi Arabia to help increase health care capacity by training local doctors.”

The SRC has concentrated its activities in Al-Fashir, Nyala and Al Junaina. It supports the local health system by rehabilitating infrastructure and providing drugs, medical equipment and beds. It has embarked on an economically important US$1.2 million-programme using a local construction enterprise and locally purchased material to build new facilities including a primary and a secondary school and a health centre at each location. “We also have an agreement with the government to construct two centres specialized in kidney problems – a further investment of US$300'000, " says Alsuw-Ayd.

The SRC has distributed supplies of sorghum, millet, cooking oil, sugar, salt, dates and wheat to families in camps, has helped renovate 27 schools in Al-Fashir and Nyala, and provided 100'000 students with school bags. Its water and sanitation team has drilled 100 boreholes and rehabilitated water pumps throughout Darfur, giving over one and a half million people access to fresh water.

 British Red Cross (BRC)  


In July this year, Sir Nicholas Young, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, and Ros Armitage, desk officer for East Africa, spent 2 weeks in Sudan, reviewing the new political context and the implications for the Red Cross Movement. After a briefing in Khartoum, the visitors spent two days in Juba familiarizing themselves with the teaching hospital, then visited the Lopiding hospital in Lokichokio and the Gereida project in South Darfur, resourced and run jointly by the British and Australian Red Cross Societies and the ICRC.

This integrated partnership – an important part of the ICRC's Darfur operations – began when 10,000 war refugees arrived at Gereida in 2004. Since then, the number of displaced people has risen to 48,000. The project is staffed by seven British and Australian expatriates and close to 100 nationals. It provides health services, water, and feeding programmes for 1,300 malnourished children in the Gereida camp. Its clinic treats up to 250 patients daily. The British and the Australian Red Cross Societies have committed to supporting the Gereida project through to the end of 2006. They have handed over maintenance and running of the camp's water supply to Oxfam, enabling them to extend their own operations to the repair and rehabilitation of water supplies in surrounding villages.

 Canadian Red Cross (CRC)  

The Canadian Red Cross has been providing health care in Seleia, in partnership with the ICRC, since 2004. The 50,000 beneficiaries include residents of " African " and Arab villages, as well as displaced people. The CRC supports the government primary health care clinic in Seleia and a CRC-ICRC mobile health unit provides preventive care to remote Arab villages. Because of the security situation, the CRC and the ICRC are often the only outside agencies able to reach these villages. The acceptance of the ICRC by all sides in the conflict and its unique ability to operate simultaneously in areas controlled by different factions is a key factor in maintaining health care.

The Seleia clinic cares mostly for outpatients but also has a small number of inpatients. It provides general health education and medical supplies; ante natal care, including safe delivery kits to expectant mothers; assisted deliveries; vaccination services; and malaria programmes, including the distribution of treated mosquito nets.

The mobile health unit brings preventive care and immunization to Arab villages whose populations are often cut off from Seleia by hostilities and that health clinic staff are equally unable to reach. In special circumstances such as national polio and measles campaigns, the ICRC-CRC mobile unit has facilitated the movement of government health personnel in areas normally out of reach to them.

The remoteness of Seleia poses special logistical problems and conflict in the vicinity makes the environment perpetually tense. But the combination of the Canadians’ experience in bringing a holistic approach to health care to remote regions – honed in Sri Lanka and Colombia – and the ICRC’s ability to rapidly deploy an effective logistics-security umbrella are proving invaluable to aid efforts.