Sudan/Chad: ICRC seeks release of staff
The ICRC continues to press for the unconditional release of staff members Gauthier Lefèvre, abducted in West Darfur, Sudan, on 22 October, and Laurent Maurice, seized in eastern Chad on 9 November. Daniel Duvillard, ICRC head of operations for East Africa, explains the situation.
How do you keep abreast of what is happening to Gauthier and Laurent?
The ICRC has been in direct contact with Gauthier and Laurent. Furthermore, we continue to be in contact with the abductors and with the national and local authorities.
We want Gauthier, Laurent and their families to know that we are doing everything we can to bring about their swift release. We are not discussing these efforts in detail, because we do not want to say anything that could compromise their safety or our chances of securing their release.
The media recently echoed demands from an armed group threatening to kill the hostages it is holding. Laurent's name was mentioned. What is your reaction?
The responsibility for the treatment and well-being of Laurent is in his abductors'hands. Of course we have been concerned about his and Gauthier's safety from the very first day they were abducted. Their safety is what we care about most. Only an immediate and unconditional release could put an end to the ordeal. We are also acutely aware of the distress this situation causes, and would like to reiterate our support to the families, friends and colleagues of Gauthier and Laurent.
How does this situation affect your activities in Sudan and Chad?
Because security is a major concern, it is constantly being reviewed. We are taking every possible precaution to ensure that our staff can work safely. Although we did have to suspend movements and adapt our field presence in eastern Chad and West Darfur, we are striving to maintain the essential services that no one else can provide. In particular, we are carrying on with our work in the camp for displaced people (IDPs) in Gereida, South Darfur, and with life-saving services such as emergency surgery performed in Abéché Hospital, eastern Chad. We are continuing to provide support for primary health-care centres and other local facilities, and for the activities of the Sudanese Red Crescent and the Red Cross of Chad.
In remote areas of Darfur and eastern Chad where very few other organizations can go, the ICRC had been involved in a range of activities such as making clean drinking water available and helping people support themselves through farming or herding. The fact that we have been forced to curtail our field presence means that we now provide fewer of these services. We deeply regret this situation. Our overriding priority is to obtain the release of our staff members as quickly as possible so that we can again bring all our resources to bear on the humanitarian work that needs to be done.
Finally, we want to stress that although our activities have been scaled down in particular areas, elsewhere in Chad and Sudan we are carrying on with our work as before.See also: ICRC president calls for kidnapped staff members to be released unharmed