Sudan: Continued suspension of activities has severe humanitarian impact
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regrets that it has not been allowed to resume its work in Sudan. The suspension of its activities for more than three months is having severe consequences for the Sudanese population in areas affected by the armed conflict, which has intensified over the past months and caused massive displacement in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Last year, some 1.5 million people in the country received ICRC aid.
"We are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation in some parts of the country and are calling on the Sudanese authorities to lift the suspension – be it on a temporary basis while discussions take place – in order that the humanitarian needs of people benefiting from ICRC programmes can be addressed," said Eric Marclay, the ICRC's head of operations for East Africa, at the organization's Geneva headquarters.
The ICRC's activities in Sudan were suspended on 1 February at the order of the country's Humanitarian Aid Commission, the government body in charge of relations with humanitarian organizations. The commission cited technical issues, while the Sudanese government asked the ICRC to review the legal agreement dating back to 1984 that sets out the organization's legal and diplomatic status in the country.
The ICRC has always shown its readiness to renegotiate the agreement on its presence and humanitarian work in the country; after some weeks of constructive negotiations, delays occurred and little progress was achieved. "We remain ready to meet with the authorities to complete the negotiations and resume our activities," said Mr Marclay. But now that its humanitarian activities have been suspended for 15 weeks, the ICRC has no alternative but to significantly downsize its delegation in Sudan. "We deeply regret having to lay off 195 of our 650 Sudanese staff, but we have no choice," he added.
The ICRC has always worked with total transparency and in strict accordance with its mandate in Sudan. In order to protect and assist victims of armed conflict, it is imperative that the principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality be adhered to. This requires a dialogue with all parties to the conflict and impartial help to all people in need, both in areas controlled by the government and in areas controlled by armed opposition groups. The ICRC's mandate is laid down in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, to which Sudan is party, along with 194 other States.
Over the past two years, the ICRC, in its role as a neutral intermediary, has facilitated the release of over 200 people, including South Sudanese prisoners of war, members of the Sudanese armed forces, and civilians – including Chinese and Turkish citizens – held by armed opposition groups.
Last year, more than 426,000 Sudanese living in areas affected by conflict received food aid from the ICRC, and over 325,000 received farming tools and seed. For nomadic communities in Darfur, whose livestock-based livelihoods have been affected by conflict, it supported vaccination campaigns for over a million animals.
In Darfur, a region where water is scarce, access to clean water was improved for over 708,000 people. More than 72,500 patients visited ICRC-supported health facilities last year and over 1,400 persons injured in armed clashes were treated with medical supplies provided by the ICRC. Throughout Sudan, over 6,100 physically disabled people, many of whom lost their limbs as a result of fighting, received services from ICRC-supported limb-fitting and physiotherapy centres.