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Sudan: distributing seed and restoring family links

06-07-2009 Operational Update

The ICRC is maintaining its efforts to provide support for people in Darfur and Southern Sudan adversely affected by the consequences of armed conflict. The following is a report on some of its main activities in June 2009.

  Seed and tools campaign in South Darfur concludes  

The ICRC completed its distribution of seed and tools in South Darfur with a final stop in Shi’eriya locality, an area heavily affected by armed clashes last January. Thousands of people had been displaced in a region already hit by a poor harvest last year.

In Labado and Muhajiriyya, the ICRC distributed 226.35 metric tonnes of groundnuts, millet, sorghum, okra and watermelon seed, together with donkey ploughs, jarrayas   (local hoes) and rakes, to 54,000 people (9,000 families) to help them resume their farming activities after they were forced to sell their reserves of seed in order to survive.

" The distribution aims to help people regain their self-sufficiency and improve their diet, " said Viviana Jimenez, the ICRC's economic security specialist based in Nyala, South Darfur. " Any surpluses resulting from good harvest conditions will be able to be marketed, and the income used to cover other needs of the families. "

Over one thousand of the families that received assistance have recently returned to Muhajeria from the camps where they had been displaced for almost three years.

Last year, the ICRC distributed seed and tools to 260,000 people (43,000 families) all over Darfur before the start of the rainy season to support them in their farming activities, their main source of livelihood. This year, an even bigger distribution took place for nearly 400,000 people (65,000 families) in order to reach the most vulnerable people even in remote villages affected by armed violence, where no other humanitarian organizations have access. Areas in South Darfur such as the Bulbuls and villages from the Buram locality, around Gereida, were included in this year's distribution for the first time.

The ICRC has been working in Nyala since 2004 to meet the need for humanitarian aid generated by the armed conflict in Darfur. Its activities focus on supporting victims of the armed conflict and on promoting the rules of international humanitarian law. The ICRC works in close partnership with the Sudanese Red Crescent.

  Restoring family links for detainees  

It was hard for the mother from northern Kordofan to believe that her son was still alive. Since he was presumed dead after going missing in North Darfur two years ago, his family and village had held funerals to gain a sense of closure.

All this changed on 22 June when an ICRC vehicle stopped in front of the family’s house. “The mother was scared initially, fearing that we were bringing her more bad news,” said Valerie Preisner, the ICRC delegate who travelled eight hours to bring a Red Cross message to the mother from her living son.

The young man is being detained by an armed group in Darfur. “She and the family could not believe that their son was still alive, even after seeing his hand-written message,” added Preisner.

He disappeared two years ago while herding his animals close to Alhawar village, near the northern Kordofan border with North Darfur. The family found out later that he had been arrested by a Darfur armed group.

An ICRC delegate visited him in March in a place of detention within the framework of the organization’s programme in Darfur to monitor detention conditions and restore family links for detainees. It took more than three months to find his family and deliver his letter.

“It was an emotional encounter after a very long trip,” said Ahmad Omar, an ICRC field officer who was part of the ICRC team that visited the family. “The mother’s crying made me cry as well. But it was worth it. Now her hope of seeing her son again is restored.”

  Congolese children reunited with their loved ones

Yambio, Southern Sudan. Unaccompanied refugee children boarding an ICRC plane to be reunited with their families in the DRC.    
    On 16 June, the I CRC took 14 Congolese children from Sudan back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to be reunited with their families. An ICRC plane flew the children from Yambio in Sudan to Dungu in the DRC.

The children were separated from their families when they fled the Haut Uélé region, in north-eastern DRC, at the end of last year following the violence occuring in the Haut-Uélé region.

The reunification was the fruit of joint efforts by the ICRC, the Sudanese Red Crescent and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent registered the children upon their arrival in Yambio at the beginning of 2009 and provided those who did not find a host family with shelter, food, water and recreational activities. The ICRC started searching for parents and other close relatives. It collected the necessary information and passed it on to the DRC Red Cross.

With ICRC support, DRC Red Cross volunteers searched for the children’s relatives. Whenever family members were located, they would write Red Cross messages (short messages containing family news) to their children and request that they be brought back to the DRC. As soon as the children agreed to return, the ICRC, the Sudanese Red Crescent and the DRC Red Cross would make arrangements for them to travel home.

Restoring family links in times of armed conflict is one of the priorities of the ICRC and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Receiving news from missing family members is a source of relief in difficult times. For the most vulnerable, such as children, it is their first step back to their families. The ICRC facilitates family reunifications like those involving the children in Yambio whenever the family situation and security conditions permit.

The t ask has not yet been completed, however, as a number of Congolese children in Yambio are still waiting for their relatives to be found.

For one child, however, the waiting ended on 27 June when his father travelled 90 kilometres from Faradje, a Congolese town near the border with Sudan, to Lasu, in Southern Sudan, to claim him. The child, who escaped abduction last February, had been registered by the ICRC and placed in the care of a Congolese refugee family in Yambio.

When the foster family decided to return to the DRC, the ICRC launched an extensive tracing operation with the help of Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers that led to Lasu, where a Congolese trader who often crosses the border recognized the boy. Shortly afterwards, contact was established with the boy’s father via a mobile phone operator in Faradje, thus ending the father's three-month search for his son.

The ICRC transported the child from Yambio to Juba, then to Yei, and finally from Yei to Lasu to be reunited with his father. “The child was traumatized by the events of the last few months,” said Daniel Corthesy, the ICRC delegate who accompanied him and witnessed the happy ending of the child’s painful saga. “It was difficult for him to comprehend and believe that he was finally being returned to the protective bosom of his family.”

For further information, please contact:
  Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Khartoum, tel: +249 91 213 77 64 or +249 1 83 476 464
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17