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Sierra Leone: seven years after peace agreement, ICRC scales back activities

15-12-2008 News Release 08/235

Freetown (ICRC) – Nearly seven years after the end of Sierra Leone's decade-long armed conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is considerably curtailing the operations it has carried out in the country without interruption for almost 18 years.

  ©ICRC/-sl-n-00044-03/E. Bosisio    
Training camp, Benguema, February 2001. ICRC familiarizing military personnel with principles of humanitarian law and of the Red Cross.    
  ©ICRC/-sl-n-00058/U. Meissner    
Parade Ground camp, Freetown, March 2000. Sierra Leonean Red Cross volunteer helping a displaced woman write a Red Cross message.    

The ICRC will no longer run an independent delegation in Sierra Leone, but will maintain an office in Freetown under the supervision of the ICRC delegation in neighbouring Guinea. The Freetown office will provide support for selected programmes of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, such as those focusing on restoring family links. The ICRC will also continue to support the government in its efforts to incorporate provisions of international humanitarian law in national legislation.

The decision to wind down operations was taken as a result of progress in Sierra Leone's peace consolidation process. The ICRC, in accordance with its mandate to protect and assist people adversely affected by armed conflict or other situations of violence, may continue to address needs resulting from a conflict after hostilities have ended in order to bridge the gap between emergency aid and development support.

In peacetime, it is typically the role of the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society to take the lead in domestic matters of humanitarian concern. The Sierra Leone Red Cross Society has a vast pool of motivated volunteers and staff. Together with partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the ICRC, they performed invaluable services for the Sierra Leonean people during and after the armed conflict. Now that peace has returned, the National Society will take over as the leading Red Cross organization in the country.

During and after the 1991-2002 civil war, the ICRC resolved over 1,600 tracing requests for unaccompanied children and reunited more than 1,200 families. It distributed food and essential household items to displac ed persons, built wells and toilets, upgraded the surgical ward of the government hospital in Kenema city, distributed farming tools, seed and fishing nets, constructed shelters for war widows, provided prostheses and orthoses for war amputees and gave medical support to various health facilities.

Among other activities carried out over the years, the ICRC has visited people held in the maximum-security prison in Freetown and in district prisons throughout the country, and people detained under the authority of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The ICRC has also provided financial support for activities of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society that deal with the consequences of the armed conflict, such as helping to find employment for war amputees and conducting child advocacy activities. Finally, it has worked closely with the country's armed forces and police to provide training in international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

  For further information, please contact:
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17
  Isabelle Bourges, CICR Conakry, tel: (+224) 63 35 13 61 or (+224) 63 408 894