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Sudan: Reuniting children with their families and training doctors

News and Press Release
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The ICRC continues to press for the release of staff members Gauthier Lefèvre, abducted in West Darfur, Sudan, on 22 October, and Laurent Maurice, seized in eastern Chad on 9 November. ICRC activities have been curtailed in Darfur, but elsewhere in Sudan they continue normally.

Reuniting children with their families

Six children separated from their families in conflict zones in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were reunited with their loved ones in an ICRC operation carried out in the two countries in early December.

Three Sudanese youths aged 13 to 15 were flown to Yambio, in southern Sudan, in an ICRC aircraft on 10 December. Three Congolese adolescents aged 16 to 17 were repatriated from Yambio on the same day.

With the help of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudanese Red Crescent, the ICRC had managed to find the families from whom the children had been separated amid armed violence at the end of last year in the Haut Uélé region, in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Western Equatoria state, Sudan.

Two days after arriving in Yambio the three Sudanese youths were flown to Juba to rejoin their families. Charlotte Josué, the ICRC delegate who accompanied them, said: "When you see parents hugging and kissing their long-lost children, you know for sure that all your efforts have been worth it."

A prayer and a feast were held in the local community to celebrate the return of the children. "I did not expect to see the kids again. I had given up hope," said Kennedy Khamis, the uncle of one of the children, smiling broadly.

"Although I received Red Cross messages from my daughter, I couldn't bring myself to believe she was alive until I talked to her on the phone yesterday," explained Louise Danga Stephen, the mother of another child, with tears of happiness in her eyes.

The three Congolese children were reunited with their families in Nyangara and Dungu, in northern Orientale province, after several weeks of delays due to lack of security in the area.

Improving water facilities in Akobo

Water points in Akobo (Jonglei State) used to provide an average of only two litres of safe water per person per day, against a minimum standard of 15-20 litres. Because the town's population of 36,000 has been swollen by around 20,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who settled in the area to escape fighting earlier this year, residents and displaced people had been crowding the water points from dawn till dusk. Buckets and jerrycans were lined up on the ground as part of the daily queue to collect water. Pressure on the water points in Akobo was so high that people near the end of the queue sometimes lost patience and drew unclean water straight from the river. Clearly, there was not enough safe drinking water for everybody.

An inspection of the town's water system by the ICRC and the local water board showed that some of the taps were defective and that the main generator was broken. ICRC personnel repaired the generator, replaced all water taps and patched leaks. Three water pump cylinders owned by the water board were also repaired.

Enhancing doctors' trauma management skills

There has been a surge of violence in Southern Sudan since the beginning of 2009. On several occasions, such as during the fighting in Malakal at the beginning of the year or in Bentiu in September, the ICRC provided hospitals with medical kits to ensure proper treatment of the wounded.

The ICRC also provided life-saving treatment for fighters and civilians in remote areas where appropriate surgical care was not available. In April, the ICRC's mobile field surgical team was sent to Nassir in Upper Nile state to operate on patients suffering from wounds inflicted by weapons.

In order to enhance their trauma management skills, 20 doctors from Southern Sudan attended the ICRC's emergency-room trauma course held in Juba from 1 to 3 December. The participants work in civilian hospitals in various Southern Sudanese towns, including Juba, Malakal, Wau and Bentiu. Some of them had already taken part in an ICRC war-surgery seminar held last year.

The training was provided by Dr Mauro Dalla Torre and Dr Daniel Brechbuehler, two ICRC surgeons who have performed war surgery in more than 25 countries, including Afghanistan, Sudan and Chad. "Treatment based on a correct initial assessment can save many lives," explained Dr Dalla Torre. "With this seminar, we are sharing our expertise with our colleagues from Southern Sudan. Optimizing the first phase of emergency care results in a decrease in the mortality and morbidity rates of trauma patients."

The course is based on the ICRC's 30 years of experience in treating war casualties, which has enabled the organization to standardize patient management through protocols and guidelines. While many courses focus on the management of injuries resulting from road-traffic accidents by health systems that can afford high-tech diagnosis, the emergency-room trauma course was set up specifically for managing war-trauma patients and mass casualties in low-tech environments.

"The course will enable participating doctors to provide better care and decrease mortality rates," said Dr Yatta Lori Lugor, the Juba Teaching Hospital's director-general. "They will also learn how to manage trauma cases in a number of different situations."