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Ghana: Red Cross helps victims of fighting in north

10-07-2008 News Release 08/128

Abidjan (ICRC) – With support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Ghana Red Cross Society today began distributing a first consignment of food aid to over 5,000 people affected by armed violence in the northern town of Bawku.

" We are trying to help the most vulnerable people here in the area to cope with food shortages in the coming months, " said Christophe Driesse, an ICRC economic security expert who is overseeing the distribution. " Poor security conditions have prevented local people from tilling their fields and the Red Cross is currently the only organization addressing this situation. "

Altogether the Red Cross will provide 120 tonnes of maize, 40 tonnes of beans, two tonnes of salt and 40,000 litres of palm oil to 1,000 households in Bawku. These supplies will arrive in two consignments and will be distributed from 10-14 July and from 15-20 August.

Since December 2007, Bawku and environs have been plagued by clashes between members of the Kusasis and the Mamprusis tribes over land and the succession of a traditional chieftainship. The fighting has led to some 20 deaths and left an even greater number of people wounded, with violence exacerbated by the profusion of small arms in northern Ghana.

The authorities have imposed regular curfews on the area, which have indeed quelled the violence, but also hampered economic life. Even when curfews are lifted, farmers are afraid to work their fields, lest they get attacked by members of the rival tribe.

" The ICRC takes action in the event of armed conflict and other violent situations. So we decided to support the excellent work of our national partner " , explained Jean-Jacques Tshamala, head of the organization's regional delegation in Abidjan. " The Ghana Red Cross has been active from the outset, its volunteers putting themselves at risk during curfews to take sick and wounded people and women in labour to hospital. "

The first skirmishes occurred on 31 December and there have been repeated clashes in March, May and June. They may be fuelled further if the presidential campaign late this year takes on ethnic overtones in northern Ghana. " Bawku is now stable, but the ICRC will continue monitoring the situation closely, " said Tshamala.

For further information, please contact:
  Jean-Jacques Tshamala, ICRC Abidjan, tel. +225 9399407 or +225 22400070
  Andrews Frimpong, Secretary General of the Ghana Red Cross, tel. +233 244455805