GENEVA, Switzerland, February 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Over the past three months, violence has caused casualties and new civilian displacement. The ICRC sent its rapid-response surgical team to the remote Jonglei state and to Wau. Elsewhere, it distributed aid to thousands and eased the shortage of clean water for displaced people.
Following an armed cattle rustling attack on 8 February in a remote part of Jonglei state, a number of wounded people, most of them civilians, reached the village of Walgak in Akobo County. Some had serious gunshot injuries that initially ruled out evacuation to a hospital. The ICRC therefore sent a rapid-response surgical team, normally based in Malakal Teaching Hospital, to the village.
“No matter what side they’re on, the wounded have the right to receive medical attention. The ICRC provides support for health-care facilities across South Sudan when there is an influx of casualties, either by donating medical supplies or by deploying a surgical team,” said Dr Cleto Chashi, in charge of the ICRC’s health programmes in the country. “Our surgical team reached Walgak within 24 hours of being notified, and provided emergency surgical care to 16 wounded people.” Four of the patients treated were subsequently taken to Malakal Teaching Hospital by the ICRC for further surgery and post-operative care.
The ICRC is also looking into other ways to step up its humanitarian assistance in Jonglei state as armed fighting continues to disrupt civilian life there. In November, the organization provided two days of training in international humanitarian law, focusing on command responsibility in the planning and conduct of military operations, for senior South Sudanese army officers stationed in Pibor town. Meanwhile, the South Sudan Red Cross has now set up an emergency action team based in Pibor. Composed of Red Cross volunteers, the team is trained by the ICRC in first aid and stands ready to respond to emergencies in the area.
Helping victims of disturbances in Wau
The ICRC’s surgical team was also sent to Wau, in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, to operate on people wounded during the serious disturbances that took place in the town over several days in mid-December. In parallel, the South Sudan Red Cross distributed relief items that included kitchen sets, tarpaulin and blankets to over 1,500 people whose homes and possessions were destroyed during the disturbances, while Red Cross volunteers helped remove the wounded for treatment. The ICRC also provided food and other essentials for particularly needy families.
Tarpaulins, mosquito nets and water for people in Jaac
In November and December, armed violence in areas between Northern Bahr El Ghazal in South Sudan and South Darfur in Sudan caused thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety in the South Sudanese counties of Aweil North and Aweil East. Many families have found a degree of shelter in the town of Jaac, in Aweil North County.
“Fighting in the area has driven people to flee to Jaac in three successive waves over the last 12 months, and conditions have often been extremely harsh for them. Many left their belongings behind when they fled their villages and have had little access to shelter. Some newly displaced families tell us they have been surviving on leaves and wild fruits,” said Caroline Huinh Van, head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in Wau. “The influx of people into Jaac has also put considerable strain on the host community, whose own resources are limited. Drinking water has been in short supply.”
In early January, the ICRC provided 6,000 people in Jaac with tarpaulins, mosquito nets and other household items. It also distributed 110 fishing kits to help people continue to earn a living. In April of last year, the ICRC distributed relief items to almost 18,000 others in the town. In December, ICRC engineers repaired three of the town’s water hand pumps to alleviate the shortage of clean water for both the displaced people and the host community.
ICRC delegates continue to monitor respect for international humanitarian law, a set of rules that limit the effect of armed conflict, and remind those fighting of their obligation to spare civilians, the wounded and the detained. “If the law is not obeyed, ICRC delegates take up their concerns directly with the commanders to improve the situation,” explained Ms Huinh Van.
Putting families back in contact
Since November, in close cooperation with the local Red Cross, the ICRC has helped nearly 1,500 people separated from other members of their families get back in touch with them. People in the Shilluk Kingdom, Upper Nile state, who were displaced by fighting in April of last year, have been given the opportunity to send written messages to their relatives, as have Congolese and Central African refugees living in Western Equatoria state. Meanwhile, satellite phone calls home arranged by the ICRC were a vital source of strength for Sudanese refugees sheltering in camps in Unity and Upper Nile states.
The ICRC also organizes family reunifications for vulnerable people, especially unaccompanied children, separated from other family members. Since November, the ICRC has reunited 10 children with their families in South Sudan. It has also repatriated a further nine children to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda to be reunited with their families there.
Emergency livestock treatment in Maban County
In early December, the ICRC cured nearly 5,000 animals of worms in Maban County, Upper Nile state, and provided other treatment after the incidence of disease and mortality levels among livestock in the county began to have a severe effect on the livelihoods of small-scale herders. The animals treated belonged to around 4,000 people from both the refugee and host communities in the county.
Also in December, the ICRC completed upgrades on water distribution networks in Yusuf Batil and Jamam refugee camps in Maban County. As a result, access to clean water has been improved for 70,000 people. Furthermore, nearly 100,000 refugees sheltering in all four camps in the county were given household and sanitary items to improve hygiene and protect against the elements and disease.