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Update on ICRC activities in Sudan

30-11-2001 Operational Update





 Executive summary  


  • In June, a military offensive by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the area of Raja, in Bahr-el-Ghazal, and a counter attack by government forces in September generated the displacement of tens of thousands of people.

  • The ICRC has been providing water for the displaced, helping to re-establish contact between separated family members and providing support to many of the country’s medical facilities, especially those needing to cope with influxes of war-wounded patients.


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 General situation  

On 6 September, the USA appointed former Senator John Danforth US Peace Envoy to Sudan. He arrived in Khartoum on 12 November and met President Omar el-Bashir, presidential adviser Ghazi Salah el-Din, second Vice President Moses Machar and opposition leaders. He later travelled to the Nuba Mountains and El-Obeid, and the rebel-held town of Rumbek.

UN sanctions against Sudan, in place since 1996, were lifted in September of this year.

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 Humanitarian situation  

The internal armed conflict continues to affect almost half of Sudanese territory (southern Sudan, the Nuba mountains and the east of the country from Kassala State down to the south-east). At the beginning of the rainy season in early June, the SPLA launched a military offensive in the area of Raja and several surrounding villages in northern Bahr-el-Ghazal. This situation generated the northbound movement of about 20,000 people towards South Darfur, mainly around Ed Dein town. At the beginning of September, the government forces launched a cou nter offensive resulting in the displacement of the population southbound in the direction of Tambura and westbound in the direction of Awada, between Wau and Raja. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) is extremely difficult to estimate but the ICRC is ready to assess several thousand of the IDPs most likely to be touched by these latest developments.

In Western Upper Nile and Unity State, after a period of increased fighting at the beginning of the year, regular skirmishes were reported between SPLA and pro-government militias, together with attacks against oil interests. The Upper Nile region is volatile and generally affected by inter-factional fighting, tribal clashes and cattle raids. In mid-April, a battle between the SPLA and government forces in the southern part of the Blue Nile region prompted the civilian population to move towards Ed Damazin.

Aid organizations working in Sudan continue to face operational obstacles and constraints, with authorization to access certain areas becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

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 ICRC response  






The vast majority of the ICRC's budget for Sudan goes towards medical assistance activities, which includes providing comprehensive medical and surgical care to the war-wounded resulting from the conflict and other surgical emergencies at its two referral hospitals, the ICRC Lopiding surgical hospital in Lokichokio in northern Kenya and, as support to existing local structures, the government-run Juba Teaching Hospital (JTH). Out of the 2,479 patients admitted to Lopiding hospital over the first nine months of the year, 40% were war-wounded. The emergency ward in Lopiding has been busy these last months with an increase in the number of malaria patients.

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Lending support to centres producing prostheses and orthoses is another important part of the ICRC's work in Sudan. The Prosthetic and Orthotic Cooperation Centre (POC) in Khartoum serves amputees and disabled people from government-controlled areas and the prosthetic/orthotic workshop in Lopiding hospital provides prostheses and orthoses for amputees from areas of southern Sudan controlled by opposition groups. During the first nine months of 2001, a total of 1,086 prostheses and 558 orthoses were manufactured at the POC and the Lopiding workshop.

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 Health centres  

Primary health care facilities are supported through medium-term projects in approximately 15 locations in southern Sudan. These combine preventive and curative medical care, water and sanitation activities, training for local health personnel, health and nutrition education, vaccination campaigns, rehabilitation of health facilities and the ad hoc provision of medical equipment and drugs in areas where the ICRC has established a presence (Yirol, Chelkou, Juba, Raja and Wau). These health centres benefit a combined catchment-area population of 200,000 people.

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 Residents and IDPs  

The ICRC also focuses on assistance to conflict-affected residents and IDPs, remaining at the ready to launch a swift emergency response, by providing assistance in the form of medical supplies, non-food items, seed an d tool kits and fishing equipment, and by putting in place water and sanitation contingency plans and stocks.

Following the influx of IDPs from Raja into Ed Dein, the ICRC supplied safe water to El Firdous camp (2,500 people) and Um Herona camp (8,000 people). One tank (70 m3) was erected in each camp and tap stands were installed. Three additional plastic reservoirs (5 m3 bladder tanks) were installed in Um Herona. Sudan Red Crescent Society (SRCS) volunteers, formerly trained by the ICRC, actively participated in these activities. Co-ordination takes place with UN agencies and NGOs involved in water and sanitation activities. In Bentiu, the ICRC continued to support the supply of safe water (15,000 residents and 20,000 IDPs) by the temporary water treatment plant built with Oxfam tanks. Chemicals, fuel, reagents for water analysis, etc. are provided.

During the past year, seeds and tools have been distributed to over 23,000 families in Sudan. Plantings in most areas have taken place, the possibility of harvesting has been dependant on the fighting and on raids. By the end of September approximately 25'000 families had received three mosquito nets, a cooking pot, a bucket, 50 fishing hooks and a roll of fishing twine. These goods were distributed to enable the families to supplement their food stocks.

A total of four Agricultural Demonstration Plots have been established in Tam, Thonyor, Yirol and Wau with a control plot in Lokichokio. On average there are 28 different vegetables and fruits, with 90% showing good germination results. Four new bore holes were completed in the Chelkou area. In the Yirol area, activities focused on the promotion and hygiene and on hand-pump repair/maintenance.

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Protection and preventive action

Protection activities and preventive action are the other focus of the ICRC's activities and involve visiting people detained in connection with the conflict, tracing and reuniting family members separated by the conflict, and disseminating international humanitarian law (IHL) to the government forces, the SPLA and other bearers of weapons.




The ICRC continues to visit persons held by the SPLA and the Sudan People's Democratic Front (SPDF) to monitor their conditions of detention. Prisoners are given the opportunity to use the Red Cross message (RCM) service to keep in touch with their families. If need be, supplementary assistance is provided to ensure basic nutritional, hygiene and medical standards. During the first nine months of 2001, a total of 472 detainees were visited by the ICRC and at the beginning of October, a visit was made to 11 people arrested on a vessel on the Nile in August and held by the SPLA. The detainees were given assistance goods and the opportunity to write RCMs to their families. Over the first nine months of the year, 1,904 RCMs from detainees were sent out and 2,808 received.


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 Maintaining family links  

The ICRC volunteer network in southern Sudan and the SRCS volunteers in government-controlled areas continue to distribute a large number of RCMs on behalf of civilians separated by the conflict. During the first nine months of the year, a total of 43,234 RCMs were collected from civilians and 40,147 distributed. From Lokichokio, the ICRC co-operated with around 112 tracing volunteers in southern Sudan and five tracing volunteers in the Kenyan Kakuma refugee camps where numerous southern Sudanese were living.

The fighting in Raja and the surrounding villages in June 2001 caused a huge influx of IDPs in South Darfur, including children who had been separated from their families. At the end of September the number of unaccompanied children registered by the ICRC in the three main camps set up in South Darfur was 543; these cases are currently being followed up and families traced with a view to reunification.


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 Promoting international humanitarian law  

ICRC preventive action aims to decrease violations of IHL by raising awareness of the basic rules among all parties to the conflict. An ICRC dissemination programme ran throughout June and July and was aimed at increasing awareness of IHL among the compulsory-service forces in different camps in and around Khartoum. By the end of the programme, over 10,000 young men as well as 120 staff had received a lecture on some basic rules of IHL.

Within the framework of the IHL teaching programme, a combined basic and advanced course took place in September at the Infantry Academy in Red Sea Province. Some 182 officers attended the four-day basic course, and four of them went on to attend a one-day advanced course. These courses were organized by three military instructors from the Infantry Academy with the support of the ICRC dissemination team and the participation of the SRCS dissemination director. Dissemination sessions with other bearers of weapons are held with the aim of increasing the understanding and acceptance of and respect for the ICRC and instructing the participants to respect the basic rules of IHL.



Local branches of the SRCS play a significant role in many aspects of the ICRC's work in government-controlled areas. The ICRC gives regular financial and logistical support to seven National Society branches in southern Sudan, as well as to its headquarters in order to strengthen the capacity of the National Society to carry out activities and emergency programmes in the fields of tracing, dissemination and emergency preparedness.


 For further information, please contact the External Resources Division.  

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