Nairobi - A two-member Caritas Italiana team has completed an extensive tour of Southern Sudan aimed at identifying ways and means in which the Italian NGO can help alleviate the suffering of the thousands of civilian victims of the civil war.
The team, whose visit during last month lasted four days, included Paolo Cereda, who is Caritas Italiana manager in charge of international programmes and Davide Invernizzi, who is the organisation's programme manager in the Eastern Africa region. The Bishop of Rumbek, Caesar Mazzolari, accompanied them in their tour of the war-ravaged state.
Prior to proceeding to the Sudan, Messrs Cereda and Invernizzi visited the Kekuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, which serves as a home to an estimated 83,000 people who have fled their countries for war-related reasons.
Upto 60 percent of the refugees in the camp established in 1992 are Sudanese. Others are from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
In Southern Sudan, the Caritas team visited Tonji, Bararud, Angangrial, Rumbek, Mapourdit, Aleel Deer, Ara Mwer, Akot and Yirol, in Bahr el-Ghazal region. Bahr el-Ghazal, situated about 1,000 kilometres south-west of Khartoum, suffered the most during Sudan's famine of last year. The famine, rated as the worst in a decade, affected an estimated 2.6 million people and claimed at least 200,000 lives.
The Caritas team visited villages, schools, hospitals, churches, camps run by other NGOs and administrative offices to get as better understanding of the consequences of the world's longest running civil war. They shot cine and still pictures and held discussions with various personalities in all the places they visited.
Cereda described the tour as of immense importance to his organisation since it was the first one of its kind. "This is the first time Caritas Italiana has sent any representative to Sudan although we have supported the churches working in the area for the past 20 years," he said.
He expected their visit to help Caritas Italiana make positive decisions regarding future involvement in the region, since there are times, when like other people/organisations outside Sudan, they have had to contend with many, sometimes conflicting views about the state of affairs in the troubled state.
A former colony of the British, Sudan has been at war since her emancipation from the colonial yoke. The only hiatus came in 1972 to 1993 following a peace deal singed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between the government and rebels.
The current phase of the war together with its attendant consequences, have claimed an estimated 1.9 million lives. Thousands have been driven as refugees while equally large numbers languish in squalid conditions as internally displaced people.
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