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Red Cross: Latest on situation in Sudan

Sudan: Bulletin No. 26 – 8 March 2005

Life in a camp for displaced people in northern Darfur : The humanitarian crisis in Darfur has forced thousands of families to leave their villages and seek shelter in bigger towns and cities. Or in camps like Kassab, on the outskirts of Kutum in northern Darfur.


It is 10 a.m. in Kassab. The 45 sheikhs representing the displaced people are attending their weekly meeting with the Spanish Red Cross representative, who has been co-ordinating aid in the camp since June 2004. These meetings are an opportunity for updates and an exchange of information about the constantly changing situation.

The camp is already housing 25,000 people, which is as many as it can hold, explains the Spanish Red Cross delegate. She reminds the sheikhs that if they improvise accommodation for newly arrived families they risk seriously degrading current residents’ quality of life. She asks them to coordinate all activities with the Red Cross, to maintain the delicate balance of resources and assistance in the camp.

From dusty field to sprawling IDP camp
A year ago, Kassab was just a sandy field located 3.5 km from Kutum. People fleeing the violence started settling on this patch of land, despite the total lack of services. In January 2004, the ICRC visited the area and found some 5,000 families living in extremely precarious conditions, with as many as 100 new families arriving every day.

A month later, the ICRC drew up a camp layout and a scheme for allocating settlement plots, working in cooperation with the Sudanese Red Crescent and the local authorities. In February 2004, 664 households received spaces, followed by 2,000 more in March, 1,886 in April and 2,700 in June. Efforts were made to allocate space in a way that respected families’ traditional ways of life. The ICRC also provided building materials, blankets, soap and clothing.

In June 2004, the ICRC handed over coordination of humanitarian relief activities here to the Spanish Red Cross. Eight other humanitarian agencies are also working in Kassab, distributing food, promoting hygiene, building showers and latrines, carrying out vaccinations, providing educational support and developing and maintaining the water and sanitation infrastructure.

Today, Kassab is a well-organized camp. The hundreds of tarpaulins are gradually giving way to more traditional roofing materials. ICRC water projects provide an average of 18 litres of water per day for each person and have enabled the camp population to cultivate vegetable gardens and construct brick ovens. These are providing Kassab’s residents with modest but dignified income-generating activities, as evinced by the local market supplying essential items. Basic medical care and schools are also available now.

Outreach to residents in remote rural areas
Kassab is only one example of a camp for displaced persons. Unfortunately, conditions are often much more difficult in other camps, in urban centres and increasingly in rural areas, where the need for assistance continues to grow. The joint efforts of other humanitarian organizations in places such as Kassab are allowing the ICRC to focus on protecting and assisting people in remote rural areas, thereby preventing unnecessary displacement of the rural population.

True to its neutral and impartial humanitarian mission, the ICRC has provided assistance to Arab communities, as Arabs have also been affected by the conflict. For instance, of the 17 such communities that were based around Kutum before fighting started, only four remain. Most have moved to the main urban centres, some to as far away as Khartoum.

The ICRC is the only organization providing assistance to these Arab communities so far, and these impartial and neutral activities are making the ICRC and its Movement partners more readily accepted and understood on all sides.

The needs are still great. Helping the people devastated by this conflict continues to demand a concerted and coordinated effort from all humanitarian agencies.

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