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International Committee of the Red Cross

DECEMBER 19, 2006
8:54 AM

CONTACT: International Committee of the Red Cross
Jessica Barry, ICRC Khartoum, tel : +249 9121 70576
Claudia McGoldrick, ICRC Geneva, tel : +41 79 217 3216


GENEVA - December 19 -

Humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Darfur

One of the most serious consequences of the upsurge in fighting in all three Darfur states since the end of the rainy season has been the growing number of people driven from villages that have been attacked or lie close to the scene of violence. An assessment in November by ICRC staff based in North Darfur found that thousands of people who had fled from areas north of Kutum over the previous two months were now widely scattered. Many had taken refuge in more remote areas while others were being hosted in distant villages. Hundreds of people had headed for camps around Kutum.

People encountered by ICRC staff north and east of Kutum told them that their main concerns were security, water and medical care. Delegates carried out emergency repairs to village water points, carried out health assessments, initiated the tracing of separated families, and facilitated the transfer of liberated members of the Sudanese Armed Forces.

The ICRC's field surgical team was deployed four times during November close to front lines in remote areas of North Darfur where there is no access to other medical facilities. During one mission in mid-November, the team operated on 27 injured persons in one 20-hour period, with operations beginning at 7.30 a.m. and the last one completed in the early hours of the following day. In total it treated some 40 injured combatants from both sides and a number of civilians. The operations were carried out in an abandoned school clearly marked with the protective Red Cross emblem.

The presence of unexploded ordnance in and around villages that have been attacked poses an enormous threat to both humans and animals. Anyone who touches unexploded ordnance is at risk of being killed or maimed if it explodes. The relevant UN agencies have been alerted and are clearing contaminated areas. The ICRC appeals for awareness-raising sessions to be held with the utmost urgency in the affected locations in order to ensure that people understand how to avoid risk.

Deteriorating security

An attack on an ICRC residence in Kutum, North Darfur, shortly after midnight on 8 December was the latest in a string of security incidents affecting ICRC operations in Darfur. An ICRC driver lost his life after being abducted in North Darfur in August. In recent weeks, the security environment for humanitarian workers has grown steadily more precarious as a result of hijackings of vehicles, looting of convoys, general harassment and attacks on staff. A Sudanese Red Crescent car was hijacked in West Darfur in early December along with two staff members. Fortunately they were released after being driven some distance. The car is still missing.

The motive for the attack on the ICRC house in Kutum is not known. An investigation is under way. The expatriates normally based there are temporarily living in El Fasher, from where they are managing the Kutum office with support from locally recruited staff.

Fighting in Malakal

When fighting between soldiers of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) broke out in Malakal, southern Sudan, on 27 November, the ICRC team on the spot offered its services as a neutral intermediary to both sides. When the fighting stopped two days later, it went to the front lines to collect the bodies of 27 SPLA soldiers lying in SAF-controlled areas. The ICRC also provided the SPLA with dressing material to treat their wounded and provided similar aid to the 400-bed Malakal hospital.

The Sudanese Armed Forces did not accept the ICRC's offer, indicating that they were able to collect their dead and treat their injured.

In addition to assisting with the collection of bodies, volunteers from the Sudanese Red Crescent distributed chlorine tablets to the population as a precaution against an outbreak of water-borne disease.

    Civilians who had fled to neighbouring villages when the fighting started returned to Malakal, which had fortunately suffered very little damage, once calm was restored on 1 December.

    The clashes were the heaviest in Malakal since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the SPLA and the government of Sudan was signed in January 2005. The situation remains tense.

    Launch of the ICRC's 2007 appeal for Sudan

    The completion of several programmes during 2006 has allowed next year's ICRC budget for Sudan to be reduced by 40 percent. The Sudan operation nevertheless remains the organization's largest worldwide for the fourth year running. The programmes that have prompted the budget cut include the handing over of the ICRC field hospital in Lokichokio, northern Kenya, to the Kenyan government. The hospital treated war-wounded people evacuated during the long civil war in southern Sudan. The medical and limb-fitting activities in Lokichokio have been transferred to Juba.

    Food distributions in the Gereida camps in South Darfur were handed over to the World Food Programme and Action Contre la Faim at the end of July. The ICRC will also shortly be turning over its therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes and primary health-care centre in Gereida to other agencies. In addition, the ICRC will discontinue blanket food distributions in 2007. This decision is based on in-depth field assessments and post-harvest monitoring in accessible areas of Darfur, including parts of Jebel Marra. As a result of these, the ICRC believes that providing people with seeds and tools on the one hand and other items that can help them generate income on the other is the best way to complement the food aid from other agencies. It will also help lessen dependency on aid, especially in areas where there has been an adequate harvest.

    Though reducing its food aid in 2007, the ICRC in no way underestimates the enormous difficulties facing hundreds of thousands of Darfuris, especially in areas where coping mechanisms are under strain because of the precarious security environment. The ICRC will therefore maintain an emergency-response capacity next year so as to be able to meet urgent needs of people affected or displaced by conflict or forced to flee their homes anywhere in the Sudan.

    As in 2006, the ICRC will keep the focus of its operations next year on rural communities, concentrating on residents living in remote villages in all three Darfur states.

    Activities during November

    By maintaining a flexible approach and going to the field whenever and wherever the security situation allowed, ICRC staff were able to carry out a substantial number of activities in all three Darfur states during November and the early part of December. Work also continued normally in southern, eastern and central Sudan, apart from the above-mentioned clashes in Malakal.

    The ICRC carried out the following activities in November:

  • installation or repair of 44 hand pumps in 19 settlements in South and West Darfur
  • rehabilitation of two village water yards in Al Murmallah and Joghana, South Darfur, and the handover of the water yard in the hospital in Kabkabiye, North Darfur
  • cleaning and repair of two shallow wells in Twail, South Darfur
  • continued work on the Zalingei water-supply network to improve supplies to 17,000 displaced people living in two camps and 15,000 residents of the town
  • continued work all over Sudan to keep separated families in touch through the exchange of Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made otherwise unreachable by armed conflict). Over 1,800 such messages were collected and some 1,200 distributed in November. (Several of the detainees visited in North Darfur following the fighting north and east of Kutum sent Red Cross messages to their families)
  • continued support by ICRC health-care staff for the Ministry of Health's expanded programme of immunization in North and South Darfur
  • continued support for the Juba Teaching Hospital, which admitted 2,450 patients in the period under review, performed 500 operations and treated 2,676 outpatients
  • continued work in close conjunction with the Juba Orthopaedic Workshop
  • support for a two-week campaign to vaccinate livestock in villages around Dar Es Salaam, in North Darfur, during which 72,060 animals were immunized against major diseases such as hemorrhagic septicaemia and black quarter. (Ten ICRC-trained animal-health workers took part as vaccinators, together with two veterinary technicians working with the local authorities in Al Fashir)


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