Sudan bulletin No. 34 - 23 Sep 2005

Fighting escalate in Darfur

Armed clashes have significantly increased in Darfur since mid-September. One factor is the recent upsurge in large-scale camel and cattle rustling. ICRC operations are proceeding as normal, with adjustments for the changing situation on the ground. The organization continues to focus its protection and assistance work on remote and rural areas of Darfur.

The ICRC remains ready to respond to any emergency needs arising from this recent surge in the Darfur conflict. Its mobile field surgical team was deployed on the border between Northern and Southern Darfur on 18 September. Over four days it treated 45 war-wounded, 17 of whom were severe cases. The team is now en route to its base in Nyala, where it will regroup and prepare for future action. The ICRC has reminded all sides of the need to guarantee access to the life-saving work of the team and to ensure the safety of all medical staff and facilities in the conflict area.

The ICRC stands ready to help local health-care facilities if needed and to distribute aid to civilians displaced or otherwise affected by the recent fighting. It continues to monitor the conduct of hostilities in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Throughout Darfur the ICRC is maintaining direct contact with all parties to the conflict, including rebel forces and armed militias. It reminds them of their obligation to protect civilians from the effects of hostilities. In particular, indiscriminate attacks are prohibited, the use of force must be proportional to military necessity, the lives and dignity of civilians and combatants no longer taking part in hostilities (the wounded, sick and captured) must be protected, and theft of civilian property indispensable for the survival of the population, such as livestock, is prohibited.

Increase in security incidents affecting humanitarian operations

Prior to the recent rise in violence, the security situation in Darfur had already been deteriorating, once again making it difficult for humanitarian organizations to help people affected by the conflict. There are currently an average of three violent incidents involving theft a week in Darfur. These threaten humanitarian workers themselves, the work they do and, above all, local residents and displaced families.

As a result of the danger, the ICRC is avoiding critical roads such as that linking Nyala (capital of Southern Darfur) and El-Fasher (capital of Northern Darfur). The main measure taken by the ICRC to prevent such events is its ongoing dialogue with all parties to the conflict, including rebel groups and armed militias. Only acceptance of its principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence will ensure the access it needs to all regions of Darfur and guarantee the safety of its staff.

So far, no food distributions, health care programmes or other ICRC activities to spare victims the worst effects of the conflict have been affected by the rising threat of theft or ambush.

Supporting vaccination campaigns

With its widespread access to all regions of Darfur, the ICRC is supporting the Sudanese health authorities in their vaccination campaigns against polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough and measles. In recent weeks, the organization's health-care team visited several Arab villages near Seleia, in Western Darfur, vaccinating all pregnant women and all children under five in a population of 10,000 people, many of whom have great difficulty reaching a medical facility.

Animal health - 300,000 livestock vaccinated

In late July, the ICRC launched a programme to vaccinate some 300,000 cattle, goats and camels in Northern Darfur, mostly against haemorrhagic septicaemia and black quarter. Some 50,000 of the cattle treated were the property of women farmers, a very vulnerable segment of society, struggling alone to support their children or extended families.

After three years without vaccination because the conflict had made it so difficult to access veterinary care, the immunity of Darfur cattle had fallen greatly and all young animals were exceptionally prone to endemic diseases. Local authorities and pastoral communities asked the ICRC to help nomads in particular. Five teams visited the area north and northwest of Kutum, in Northern Darfur. The vaccines and some of the equipment were provided by the Sudanese government while the ICRC supplied the staff and the logistical means.

The team's experiences were wide-ranging and included treating herds of up to 1,200 camels. In one case, haemorrhagic septicemia had reduced a woman's herd from 30 cattle to one lone cow: her sole economic resource. She had walked the animal dozens of kilometres to get it vaccinated.

The campaign is now in its final stages, with excellent results already apparent.

Dormitory opens for amputees in Nyala

A residence for people requiring artificial limbs and orthotic devices will soon be inaugurated jointly by Sudan's National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics, the German Red Cross and the ICRC in Nyala, Southern Darfur. Since last May, when it first opened its doors, the Nyala limb-fitting and rehabilitation centre has treated more than 100 men and women from Western and Northern Darfur.

The whole project - centre and residence - has been fully financed by the German Red Cross (140,000 US dollars). The ICRC oversees the transportation of the patients from their homes to Nyala and back again, and organizes their stay at the residential centre, their physical rehabilitation, production of the necessary devices and specialized training for the centre's staff.

Workshop on promoting humanitarian law

The Sudanese Red Crescent and the ICRC organized a workshop for 22 Red Crescent staff from all over Sudan responsible for presenting the National Society's principles and mandate to various sectors of civil society and promoting compliance with international humanitarian law. Their work is critical to acceptance of the humanitarian activities of the Red Crescent in Sudan and of humanitarian law and the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The five-day workshop was made possible by a large number of experts from throughout Sudanese society who gave talks on the law, human rights, media relations, presentation techniques and the best methods of mobilizing volunteers.

Since the beginning of 2005, the ICRC has carried out the following activities:

In Darfur:

- The ICRC supplied water to seven camps for displaced persons and urban areas, and repaired water-supply networks in three towns (Kutum, Gereida and Al Geneina). In addition, two million litres of water are being supplied daily for some 600,000 people.

- The organization distributed 23,600 tonnes of food to 300,000 people.

- The ICRC mobile field surgical team has been deployed 14 times since April, performing 173 operations on war-wounded patients (including combatants) who would otherwise have had no access to care.

In Sudan as a whole:

- The ICRC repaired and upgraded five hospitals and 12 primary health-care clinics.

- It supported four hospitals and 12 primary health-care clinics with staff, drugs, consultations and surgery, and expanded immunization and training programmes.

- It gave specially targeted talks on international humanitarian law, ICRC activities and the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for over 8,600 people including government officials, military personnel, opposition groups, armed militias and religious and community leaders.

- It distributed 26,500 tarpaulins, 74,500 blankets, 34,000 kilos of soap, 8,700 kitchen sets, 18,600 jerrycans, 13,400 items of women's clothing, 21,500 items of girl's clothing, 21,600 items of boy's clothing, 8,600 women's sandals and 41,000 children's sandals to a total of 200,500 people.

- It collected 22,300 Red Cross messages and distributed 22,500.

- It continued to confidentially discuss matters relating to the protection of the victims of conflict with all the parties at all levels, both in the field and in Khartoum.

For further information, please contact:

Paul Conneally, ICRC Khartoum, tel. +249 9121 70576

Lorena Brander, ICRC Khartoum, tel. +249 9121 37764

Marco Jiménez Rodríguez, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 79 217 3217