LONDON - August 16 - The deaths of eight aid workers in Darfur during the month of July underscored the fragile security situation in the region and rendered the distribution of aid even more difficult. Although the ICRC maintains a network of contacts with all parties to the conflict, its staff have periodically been threatened and its convoys and staff robbed by groups over which the parties have no control.
Under international humanitarian law, personnel participating in relief actions must be respected and protected. The parties to the conflict must take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and to guarantee their freedom of movement.
In humanitarian terms, any interruption in the delivery of assistance could have dire consequences in a region where, on some estimates, over two million people have been displaced from their homes and exposed to strife for the past three years.
ICRC delivers aid amid continuing violence
Violence continues to disrupt the meagre economic activity in the camps for internally displaced people and also to cut off many other areas from markets, essential services, trade and migration routes and veterinary services. As a result of the strife, many pastoralists have lost their herds to looting or disease and retreated to their villages.
Whereas some areas – mostly in West Darfur – remain off limits to the ICRC, others that had previously been unreachable because of fighting are now accessible. Thus, for the first time, the ICRC delivered food to central Jebel Mara during the month of July.
Zaghawas, Masalits, Tamas, Furs, Arabs and other ethnic groups residing in remote rural areas of Darfur are among the primary recipients of ICRC food distributions. They live beyond the reach of other humanitarian organizations and, owing to the fighting, can do little to help themselves.
ICRC food aid is coupled with agricultural support to enable people to reach or maintain self-sufficiency wherever possible. The organization continues to supply farmers with seed and tools and to provide veterinary care for nomads’ herds. It is also pressing ahead – in remote rural communities especially – with repairs of water yards and wells, vaccination campaigns and deliveries of medical supplies to primary health-care facilities.
Field surgical team
The ICRC’s field surgical team performed 50 operations in July (compared with 16 during the same period last year) in different parts of Darfur. The team is made up of a surgeon from El Salvador, an anaesthetist from Germany, an operating-theatre nurse from Australia and a ward nurse from Switzerland.
Support for primary health-care clinics
The ICRC has provided two primary health-care facilities situated south of Maridi, near the Congolese border in the southern province of Western Equatoria, with enough fluids, bandages, non-sterile gauze and other basic medical supplies to last two or three months. The facilities were looted and had been running low on medical supplies, which made it difficult to treat the 30 to 40 patients requiring attention daily. Malaria, scabies, diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis and kwashiorkor (a type of malnutrition caused by insufficient protein intake) are prevalent in the area.
Re-establishing family links
According to UN estimates, over 200,000 Sudanese have sought refuge in Chad since 2004. These refugees are now dispersed among 12 camps in the eastern part of the country.
To help to restore contact between scattered family members, the ICRC set up offices in the refugee camps to gather the information needed to locate individuals, facilitate the exchange of Red Cross messages and, eventually, arrange for the families to be reunited. These offices are run by volunteers from the refugee community.
The ICRC reunited 10 children between 6 and 18 years of age and the grandmother of one of them with their families at the end of July. They had been living as refugees in four different camps and rejoined their families – in some cases after three years’ separation – in various parts of Darfur.
The ICRC is currently processing 2,797 tracing requests, including 689 concerning children.
In July the ICRC:
Since the beginning of 2006 the ICRC:
- distributed food to over 160,000 people in Darfur;
- delivered food for the first time to central Jebel Mara in Darfur;
- distributed agricultural tools and essential household items to over 13,000 people in Darfur;
- deployed its field surgical team to perform 50 operations in Darfur;
- collected and distributed nearly 4,000 Red Cross messages in Sudan;
- resolved 15 tracing requests in Sudan;
- delivered medical supplies to two primary health-care facilities in southern Sudan.
- has handled 5,703 Red Cross messages (3,524 collected and 2,179 distributed) in Chad and Sudan;
- has arranged for 19 families to be reunited in Darfur.