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Cablegate: President Bashir's Nicer Brother: Rufaida Medical

VZCZCXRO1827
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0195/01 0381335
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071335Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9914
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000195

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SE WILLAMSON AND AF/SPG
DEPARTMENT PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID SOCI KHIV SU
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT BASHIR'S NICER BROTHER: RUFAIDA MEDICAL
FOUNDATION ASSISTS VICTIMS OF THE REGIME'S OWN BRUTAL
POLICIES


1. (SBU) Summary: Led by President Omar Al-Bashir,s brother
and sister-in-law, the Rufaida Health Foundation (RHF)
promotes health services and disaster relief throughout
Sudan, notably to populations marginalized or victimized by
the policies of the Khartoum government. The Foundation also
works to promote HIV/AIDS and drug abuse awareness and
treatment. RHFs efforts highlight the contradictions of
Sudan,s political elite. End summary.

2. (U) On February 6, CDA Fernandez visited the small but
active Rufaida Health Foundation and met with RHF Secretary
General Dr. Abdullah Al-Bashir and his wife Dr. Nur El Huda
Shafie, RHF,s Executive Manager. Dr. Al-Bashir, who is an
Irish-trained surgeon in the Sudan Armed Forces Medical
Corps, is the younger brother of Sudanese President Omar
Al-Bashir. Dr. Al-Bashir noted that he must balance his work
load at the Foundation with his military duties. The
Al-Bashirs described the twin objectives of their Foundation
as medical disaster relief and promoting health services
throughout Sudan, including in Darfur and other marginalized
areas.

Disaster Relief ) Darfur and Beyond
-----------------------------------

3. (U) The Al-Bashir,s outlined the RHF,s activities in
Darfur. Partnered with the European Union, the Foundation
provides both physical and psychological-health services to
the local population, including IDPs. The Foundation's
services include psychological counseling and treatment to
victims of violence, notably traumatized women and children.
Education and therapy seek to promote a &culture of peace8
among the population by encouraging recipients to think about
ways they can work together to resolve problems. The NGO was
previously active in Nyala's teeming Kalma IDP camp and now
has an operation in neighboring Otash IDP camp. Dr. Nur
described working in Kalma "sitting with weeping women
telling you their stories, and you cry too."

4. (U) In addition to its Darfur activities, RHF provides
emergency medical assistance in natural and man-made disaster
areas elsewhere in Sudan, and in areas lacking basic medical
care via mobile clinics in partnership with UNICEF. The
Foundation has worked in South Sudan, for example, providing
post-conflict services in Bentiu, similar to what is
providing now in Darfur. CDA commented that, from his
experience, this type of mental health outreach is unusual in
the Arab world. Dr. Nur agreed that mental health services
currently are largely limited to hospitals and need to be
more broadly available.

HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse Programs
--------------------------------

5. (U) The Al-Bashirs also described the Foundation's
efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. With the support
of UNAIDS, RHF works to encourage safe behavior among the
population (focusing on high-risk groups, including the
prison population and truck drivers) and to make HIV/AIDS
services available. RHF also provides drug education and
prevention services. Dr. Shafie noted that narcotics are a
growing problem in Sudan, due to its location on a transit
route for drug smuggling, which contributes to the spread of
HIV. The Foundation provides drug-education in the schools,
training students who provide the instruction, believing that
such peer-to-peer programs will have more credibility.

Opportunities for Partnership
-----------------------------

6. (U) The CDA expressed his admiration for the work that
RHF is doing and said he would encourage American NGO and
government institutions to get in contact to explore possible
opportunities for cooperation. He noted that USAID already
has a large health program in Sudan, mostly in the South but
it is consulting internally on how best to restructure its
programs in the rest of the country, especially in Darfur.
There is a need, of course, for improved physical and mental
health services throughout Sudan. He added that the United
States has been providing extensive emergency humanitarian
aid in Darfur, but wants to begin to transition to
development assistance, as it as done in the South. Health
programs will be a key part of development in Darfur but only
a real improvement in the security situation will enable the
international community to shift to early recovery programs.


KHARTOUM 00000195 002 OF 002


Comment
-------

7. (SBU) The work of the Rufaida Health Foundation reflects
some of the complexity and irony of Sudan,s internal
turmoil. While the GoS has marginalized wide swaths of the
country and its population - and has unleashed terrible
suffering in Darfur and earlier in the South - President Al
Bashir,s own brother heads an NGO that is performing relief
work in these same geographic areas, notably to victims of
government-inspired violence. The Foundation also is
reaching out to areas that are neglected by Khartoum. We
resisted the temptation to ask this busy, well-intentioned
couple an obvious question: wouldn't their labors be
lightened if the Government headed by their brother wasn't so
bent on traumatizing so many of its own citizens?
FERNANDEZ

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