Sporadic fighting in some parts of Darfur between government forces and armed opposition groups continues to take its toll on civilians. Even in relatively peaceful areas, people need help regaining self-sufficiency. The ICRC brought aid to around 500,000 people in Darfur over nine months.
"This year's good rainfall coupled with the ICRC's distribution of seed and tools helped farmers in Darfur to increase the area under cultivation," said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. Initial assessments after the distribution indicate a substantial harvest that will benefit over half a million people. In addition, around 100,000 people have been helped by an ICRC-supported animal-vaccination programme that reached over 800,000 animals belonging to nomadic communities. "Conflict-affected communities are very vulnerable," said Mr Sandoz. "We are committed to providing them with support in cooperation with our primary partner in the country, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society."
Continuing clashes between government forces and armed groups in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have resulted in numerous casualties over the past few months, and in a new wave of displacement. Thousands of people fled their homes for safer places, many of them crossing the border to South Sudan. "We have offered to expand our presence in these conflict-stricken areas to carry out an impartial assessment of needs and to provide assistance to the people most severely affected," said Mr Sandoz. "So far, however, we have not been granted access there." In the meantime, the ICRC is helping Sudanese refugees in South Sudan by improving the availability of water in various camps and by other means. (See operational update - South Sudan: aid reaches thousands of refugees in Maban county)
Below is an overview of ICRC activities in the region from March to November 2012.
Playing the role of neutral intermediary
In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC took part in the handover and release of various detainees and in the transfer to the Sudanese government of captured soldiers held by armed opposition groups.
In February, the ICRC facilitated the release of five Turkish citizens in Darfur and 29 Chinese citizens in South Kordofan held by armed groups. In April, it assisted in the repatriation of 13 Sudanese prisoners of war released by the South Sudanese authorities. In July, it facilitated the handover of 63 Sudanese armed forces personnel released by an armed opposition group in Darfur.
In August, in accordance with its mandate under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC visited 19 prisoners of war from South Sudan held by Sudanese authorities in Kadugli, South Kordofan. The ICRC visits prisoners and other detainees to ensure that they are treated with dignity and humanity, in accordance with international humanitarian law. In September, the prisoners of war were released and transported aboard an ICRC aircraft from Sudan to South Sudan, where they were placed in the care of the authorities. In November, the ICRC facilitated the release of three Sudanese soldiers by an armed group in Darfur.
Providing emergency assistance and helping people maintain their livelihoods
The ICRC, often working in partnership with the Sudanese Red Crescent, strives to support newly displaced people by providing emergency food rations enabling them to overcome the initial shock of leaving their homes. For those who remain displaced for long periods, the ICRC takes action to help them regain the ability to fend for themselves.
To improve the long-term prospects of conflict-affected communities, the ICRC distributed seed and tools that will benefit more than 500,000 individuals in the Jebel Marra area and elsewhere in Darfur. In addition, it distributed donkey ploughs to around 40,000 people. Food aid was provided for over 450,000 people in Darfur to help protect distributed seed and, consequently, the harvest later in the year. "In severe conditions, farmers are often confronted with the difficult choice of having to plant their seed or use it to feed their families," said ICRC field officer Shamseldeen Abdelrasoul. The ICRC also provided support for agricultural research centres in Al Fashir and Nyala through two seed multiplication projects.
Livestock are the main source of income for the nomadic communities that migrate seasonally in search of water and pasture. To ensure that the animals remain healthy, the ICRC provided support, in cooperation with state ministries of animal resources, fisheries and rangeland, for the vaccination of nearly 820,000 animals belonging to some 16,400 households in remote areas across Darfur, and trained over 200 people to provide basic animal health services. In addition, it upgraded the animal health clinic of Al Malam in South Darfur.
Long distances and the lack of transportation can prevent people from bringing their farm products to market on time. To address this issue, the ICRC distributed donkey carts that will benefit 7,200 people in Darfur. The carts, which are also used to transport water and to take people to health clinics, are a source of income for their owners.
After floods struck South Kordofan in June, the ICRC supported the efforts of the Sudanese Red Crescent to provide 4,200 people with such household essentials as tarpaulins, blankets, jerrycans, clothing, soap and kitchen utensils. Similar items were donated to the Red Crescent for distribution to over 1,800 flood-stricken households in Darfur.
Major vaccination campaign
The ICRC continues to support seven primary health centres in Darfur and, through the Sudanese Red Crescent, a mobile clinic and four primary health clinics in Blue Nile state. The ICRC supports the health centres in Darfur, which serve around 1,400,000 people, by providing them with medicines and medical supplies, supplementing their staff salaries, and making sure they are maintained in accordance with Ministry of Health standards. From March to November of last year, around 50,000 patients were seen by health-centre staff for general checkups and around 30,000 for routine vaccinations. In addition, more than 8,000 women visited the centres for ante-natal checkups. With ICRC support, over 45,000 children were immunized against polio and some 450,000 people against meningitis.
Beginning in June, the ICRC provided support for a six-month vaccination campaign carried out by the state health ministry in North Darfur in areas with very low rates of immunization. By November, over 50,000 infants under one year of age had been vaccinated against various diseases. The objective is to raise vaccination rates to 80 per cent.
Towards the end of October, yellow fever was reported in Darfur. The ICRC was among the first to respond by providing hospitals in the affected areas with medical supplies and two tents for isolation wards. The ICRC has also been supporting the ongoing campaign to vaccinate over 206,000 people in Niertiti and Sharq Al Jabal.
To promote the safe delivery of babies, the ICRC is creating a network of midwives to provide skilled care for an underserved population. Twenty-seven ICRC-supported students graduated this year from state health ministry midwifery schools. To raise awareness of health issues, the ICRC also organized over 180 health education sessions across Darfur attended by nearly 7,000 people.
The ICRC provides support to seven physical rehabilitation centres run by the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics and a centre belonging to the Khartoum Cheshire Home for the rehabilitation of disabled children. From March to November of last year, almost 2,000 patients were fitted with prostheses or orthoses and 900 patients were provided with walking aids. With ICRC support, the National Authority and Cheshire Home together provided physiotherapy to over 1,500 patients.
Exchange of more than 9,500 messages
Locating people separated from their loved ones and putting them back in touch with their relatives is a vital humanitarian service offered by the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent. The work involves tracing people, reuniting families and seeking to clarify what happened to people who remain missing. Between March and November, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent delivered and collected a total of over 9,500 Red Cross messages (brief messages containing family news) between family members. In addition, they reunited seven children living in Khartoum with their families in South Sudan, and one child with his family in Chad.
The ICRC continued to promote knowledge of and compliance with international humanitarian law, and to provide information on its own role and activities. Several presentations were made to Sudanese armed forces personnel, central reserve police personnel, border guards, police officers, community elders, academics, members of civil society organizations and journalists. With the aim of facilitating humanitarian activities, the ICRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with the Sudanese security forces and with armed groups.
In November, in cooperation with the ICRC, the Sudanese Red Crescent held a round table on "Health Care in Danger" (an ICRC initiative highlighting the dangers facing health services in armed conflict and other emergencies) together with representatives of the military medical corps and of the Ministry of Health.