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Sudan: supporting livelihoods and restoring family links

19-08-2008 Operational Update

Update on the humanitarian situation

The ICRC continued helping people in remote areas to sow their fields and vaccinate their livestock ahead of heavy rains. Its teams provided vital relief to displaced people in Darfur, buried the dead in Abyei and re-established contact between families in Sudan and their relatives in Guantanamo. At the same time, the ICRC continued to remind all those involved in the conflict of their obligations to respect civilian lives and property. It accepted a request from the Sudanese government for assistance with the release and transfer of 99 minors arrested in connection with an attack on Omdurman last May, enabling them to rejoin their families in Darfur.

Distributing seed and tools in Darfur

Two months ago, the ICRC launched a massive seed distribution operation for families in rural Darfur. The operation was aiming to help 40,000 families (200,000 people) living in remote farming areas, especially in and around Jabal Marra. “The situation in Darfur has made it difficult for these families to get the basic goods and services they need, " said ICRC agronomist Bruno Declercq in Sudan. ”The seed will boost their production capacity and improve their economic position.”

Each household received seed for staple foods and cash crops, together with basic tools and a " seed-protection ration " – a supply of food that would prevent families being forced to eat the seed rather than sow it.

When the time came to take stock of the operation, the ICRC found it had assisted more people than expected. Over 500 tru cks and hundreds of workers had distributed nearly 3,300 tonnes of seed, food and agricultural implements to 45,000 families in remote areas of North and South Darfur States; 5,000 families (25,000 people) more than the target.

Livestock vaccination campaign

Darfur is home to an estimated 20 million head of livestock, making grazing animals the main form of livelihood and source of income for nomads in the region. Conflict, insecurity, geography and constant nomadic movement have made it increasingly difficult for these people to obtain animal health services. The ICRC is therefore vaccinating their livestock in areas where such services are not available.

To protect animals against five major fatal diseases, two ICRC teams completed a major livestock vaccination campaign in remote areas around Kabkabiyya in northern Darfur, working with the Ministry of Animal Health. The teams vaccinated nearly 130,000 cattle, camels, sheep and goats.

By the end of the operation in mid-July, ICRC teams had vaccinated a total of 500,000 animals in designated nomadic areas in North and South Darfur during 2008. " Red Cross medicine is very good for our animals, " said a camel owner near Nyala, South Darfur. " We used to lose 15 to 20 per cent of our animals to disease. This has now dropped to about 5 per cent. "

Vaccinations are to resume at the end of the rainy season in October. It is virtually impossible to conduct vaccination campaigns during the rains, as the flocks are moved to greener pastures and it is difficult to access remote areas.

Conducting burials in Abyei

Last May, fighting in the disputed central Sudanese town of Abyei left a number of unburied corpses behind. A team of 14 ICRC and Sud anese Red Crescent staff trained in disaster management was deployed to the town. They located the bodies and attempted to identify them before burying the remains of 59 people with dignity at a known, accessible location.

" Identifying the dead was impossible, " said Giorgio Negro, the ICRC team leader. " After being left in the open for nearly a month, the bodies were decomposed beyond recognition. We buried them at a known location, so people could visit. "

Other teams travelled to Almujlad, Agok and Malwal Aleu, where thousands of people had fled from Abyei. They repaired the water and electricity systems at Almujlad Hospital to ensure that the operating theatre functioned properly, delivered relief goods including essential household items, ensured access to clean water and traced children and vulnerable people.

Caring for the sick and wounded

The ICRC is providing medical supplies to 10 primary health care facilities in Darfur. During June and July, these facilities treated nearly 24,000 people and vaccinated more than 16,000 children under 5 and pregnant women against eight killer diseases.

The ICRC’s highly specialized flying Field Surgical Team provides medical and surgical care for casualties of the fighting who have no access to health services. The team operated on 33 people in various towns in Darfur who needed urgent treatment.

Care for 136,000 displaced persons in South Darfur

At least 6,000 people arrived at Gereida camp over the last two months, increasing its population to more than 136,000 and making it the largest camp for internally displaced people in the world. People move to the safety and stability of the camp because they are exhausted by the perils and struggles of daily life in their villages, compounded by lawlessness and the lack of basic health, water and other services.

The ICRC continues to supply the camp's population with monthly rations of food. The organization also provides shelter, water, sanitation and health services, together with nutritional care and household essentials. Initial results of a nutritional survey conducted in early August " point to a slight improvement over last year in the nutritional status of children receiving care at the ICRC centre supported by the British Red Cross, " said Martin Bissig, ICRC Coordinator for Economic Security in Sudan.

Re-establishing family links for minors and Sudanese prisoners in Guantanamo

Visits continued to 99 minors captured in connection with a rebel attack last May on Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city. The ICRC was able to restore links between nearly half of the minors and their families, and at least 49 of them received replies to Red Cross messages they had sent to their families in Darfur.

Following a presidential amnesty for these minors in July, the Sudanese authorities asked the ICRC to help reunite them with their families. The ICRC is facilitating this humanitarian operation and is sparing no effort to restore family links for all of them, in preparation for their rejoining their families.

Two of the four Sudanese nationals held by the US in Guantanamo were able to talk to their families by telephone with the assistance of the ICRC. This was the first time they had been able to speak to their relatives for several years, and the calls were highly emotional events.

  For further information, please contact:
  Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Khartoum, tel: +249 912 137 764 or +249 183 476 464
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 17 or +41 22 730 22 71

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