International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

In This Issue:
Haiti: ICRC Stepping Up Efforts to Help Victims of Earthquake
Interview with Reto Stocker, ICRC's Head of Delegation for Afghanistan
Yemen: Harsh Weather Worsens Plight of Civilians in Conflict Zone
Fourth Annual International Humanitarian Law Course Held at Santa Clara University School of Law
40 Years from Now, Someone May Read This in the ICRC's Archives
Sudan/Chad: ICRC Maintains Efforts to Secure Release of Abducted Staff Members 
The ordeal of abduction continues for ICRC staff members Gauthier Lefèvre, taken hostage in West Darfur, Sudan, on October 22, and Laurent Maurice, seized in eastern Chad on November 9, almost two months ago. Daniel Duvillard, ICRC head of operations for East Africa, explains the situation.

Has the ICRC received any recent information about what is happening to Gauthier and Laurent?

The ICRC has been in direct contact with both of them. Furthermore, we continue to be in contact with the abductors and with the national and local authorities. We are following developments closely and continuing to do everything we can to bring about the safe and rapid release of our colleagues.

What else can the ICRC do?

Our priority is to ensure that Gauthier and Laurent remain safe and that they are let go without any further delay and without conditions.
The responsibility for the treatment and well-being of our colleagues is in their abductors' hands. We remain concerned about our colleagues' safety. We have been concerned from the very first day they were abducted. Their safety is what we care about most. Only an immediate and unconditional release could put an end to the ordeal.

What impact are the abductions having on your activities in Sudan and Chad?

Because security is a major concern, it is constantly being reviewed. We are taking every possible precaution to ensure that our staff can work safely. Although we did have to suspend movements and adapt our field presence in eastern Chad and West Darfur, we are striving to maintain the essential services that no one else can provide. In particular, we are carrying on with our work in the camp for displaced people in Gereida, South Darfur, and with life-saving services such as emergency surgery performed at Abéché Hospital in eastern Chad. We are continuing to provide support for primary health-care centres and other local facilities, and for the activities of the Sudanese Red Crescent and the Red Cross of Chad.
The latest ICRC news from around the globe
Our World At War: On the Move
DRC - Ron Haviv, Our World at War
After its successful runs in New York, New York; Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, Our World At War is taking a short break from its tour. Thank you to all who have supported the show.
In 2010, the ICRC plans to bring the exhibit to Seattle, Washington; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the San Francisco Bay Area, California.  
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 Indiscriminate weapons
James Nachtwey's Our World At War photograph, taken at an ICRC orthopedic clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan, was named to TIME Magazine's Year in Pictures 2009 list. The special issue can be found at newsstands; the photograph appears on page 56.
Our World At War: 10 Multimedia Clips from 8 Conflict Zones
Our World At War Multimedia Clips
Watch these short films to learn more about the inspirational efforts, led by ordinary men and women, to limit human suffering in some of the most violent corners of the world.
Afghanistan - Sorrow Beyond Words - photos by James Nachtwey
Colombia - Mines Continue to Shatter Lives - photos by Franco Pagetti
Democratic Republic of Congo - Giving Lost Children the Chance of a New Life - photos by Ron Haviv
Georgia - Dilemma of the Displaced - photos by Antonin Kratochvil
Haïti - Poverty: A Breeding Ground for Violence - photos by Ron Haviv
Haïti - Providing a Lifeline to the Sick and Wounded - photos by Ron Haviv
Lebanon - Uprooted by Conflict - photos by Franco Pagetti
Lebanon - Medical Volunteers Putting Their Lives on the Line - photos by Franco Pagetti
Liberia - Trauma Healing and Reconciliation - photos by Christopher Morris
Philippines - Protecting the Lives and Dignity of Detainees - photos by James Nachtwey
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ICRC Mission
The ICRC is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. 
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News and Notes
January 2010 

Happy New Year! The ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada wishes all of its newsletter readers an auspicious start to the year 2010.
We would also like to extend our thanks to all the readers who have already completed our feedback survey. We greatly appreciate the time and effort you put into your responses, which will enable us to guide future issues of this newsletter. We have also decided to keep the survey open through the end of this month, January 31. In case you have not already done so, please take a few moments to tell us what you think.
In light of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, we begin this month's newletter with a word on the ICRC's response. Next, we welcome Mr. Reto Stocker, Head of ICRC Delegation in Afghanistan, to Washington, DC. Read on for a short interview with him. In addition, we bring you the latest on ICRC opertations in Yemen, where at least 150,000 people in Sa'ada and Amran governorates have been affected by armed conflict since mid-August.
Please also take a minute to read about the fourth annual international humanitarian law course co-hosted by the ICRC and Santa Clara Law School's Center for Global Law and Policy. Lastly, we peek into the ICRC's historical archives housed in Geneva, which contain textual records and a collection of photographs, films, and other material dating back to 1863. 
Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
Haiti: ICRC Stepping Up Efforts to Help Victims of Earthquake
Reuters photo of earthquake damage in Haiti
As the scale of the destruction wrought by the January 12 earthquake off the Haitian coast becomes more and more apparent, the ICRC's relief effort is gathering speed. Thousands are feared dead and many more are injured. Untold numbers are still buried under the rubble. Getting them out and providing medical care for the wounded is the top priority.

"The extent of the suffering caused by this disaster is immense," said the ICRC's head of operations for Latin America and the Caribbean, Patricia Danzi. "Our colleagues in Port-au-Prince have begun to assess the damage. People are scared and many remain in the streets as aftershocks are still being felt. Untold numbers are still buried under collapsed buildings. Getting them out and providing medical care and supplies for the wounded is what counts now."

Some additional information:
  • ICRC staff members have been able to assess the situation in parts of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, but are not in a position to give details of the numbers of dead and injured.
  • The ICRC's office in Port-au-Prince has been damaged by the earthquake but is usable. The ICRC's warehouse is also damaged and for now inaccessible.
  • A plane carrying 11 ICRC staff is due to leave Geneva for Port-au-Prince January 14. The team includes engineers, a surgeon, and specialists in reuniting families separated by disaster as well as economic security, logistics, and IT specialists.
  • A second plane carrying 40 tons of medical goods and body bags is due to leave Geneva later on January 14 to arrive in the region on January 15.
  • All 69 ICRC staff members working in Haiti, including nine expatriates, have now been accounted for. However, the fate of some of the family members of the ICRC's Haitian staff remains unknown.
  • The ICRC is working around the clock with our Red Cross partners to help the survivors. The international Red Cross and Red Crescent's response to the disaster is being coordinated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The ICRC plans to focus on providing medical aid for survivors of the earthquake and support for efforts to recover and identify the dead. It will also support Red Cross efforts to restore contacts between family members separated because of the earthquake and its aftermath. Finally, it plans to assess the needs of the prisons where it has been regularly visiting detainees. 
The ICRC has been working in Haiti since 1994. It focuses on improving access to water and sanitation in violence-prone shantytowns in Port-au-Prince, visiting detainees and supporting the capacity of the Haitian Red Cross.
To read more about the ICRC's work in Haiti, click here.
Interview with Reto Stocker, ICRC's Head of Delegation for Afghanistan
Reto Stocker, ICRC Head of Delegation in AfghanistanAs Head of the ICRC Delegation in Afghanistan, Mr. Stocker is in charge of ICRC's largest operation worldwide, with 1,500 Afghan and 125 Expatriate staff working from 14 permanent offices in all regions of the country. He worked in Northern Afghanistan in 1999/2000 and took on his current assignment in November 2005. While in Washington, he spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and met with representatives of the U.S. Government and American Red Cross.
You have spent the past four years working as ICRC Head of Delegation in Afghanistan. How has the situation evolved during that time?
The conflict in Afghanistan has intensified and spread now to nearly all 34 provinces. In the early stages, the conflict was largely asymmetric, but now we are seeing more conventional fighting. This fighting is destroying houses and forcing people to leave their homes and move to where they can find security and make a living, whether in district centers or in provincial capitals. In addition, 1.8 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan and another 1 million in Iran. People continue to leave the country and become a part of this large refugee community.
What are the greatest humanitarian needs in Afghanistan today?
Whether they are in rural or urban areas, most Afghans will tell you that security is the greatest need, and I mean security in an integrated sense. Civilian causalities as a result of suicide attacks in inhabited areas, indiscriminate roadside bombs, and air strikes by international military forces are a big concern. More Afghans are directly exposed to security issues, meaning they can no longer travel to obtain the services they need. The ICRC sees how this insecurity results in families making difficult choices about seeking medical attention. For example, a child's respiratory tract infection that could have easily been treated at the primary health care level goes unchecked until we see the child in at the hospital many weeks later when the child is extremely sick and difficult to treat. 
An ICRC pediatrician examines a baby with pneumoniaWhat are the biggest challenges confronting the ICRC in the coming months?
Security remains a huge concern for the ICRC, despite our contact with all parties to the conflict and being able to notify our movements on a regular basis. When it comes to having the ability to physically go to areas of displacement, or to where there have been attacks, and to do comprehensive evaluations, this is the worst situation we've experienced over the last 30 years. We have the unique opportunity to work with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, which has a grassroots network of about 40,000 volunteers, almost half of them trained in basic first aid. They work closely with us to distribute relief as well as Red Cross Messages to persons being detained by national and international security forces.
That said, it is important for the ICRC to be as present as possible in the most conflict-affected areas. We have managed to make progress and have opened sub-delegation offices in very conflict-affected provinces, in places like Lashkar Gah,Ghazni, Kunduz, Farah, and Qal-e-Naw. We are committed to working in these areas but need to continuously make strides to reach the most vulnerable populations in Afghanistan.
Other humanitarian agencies have been forced to scale back operations due to security concerns. Why is the ICRC not doing so?
Following the deliberate execution of an ICRC expatriate in 2003, the ICRC was shaken and unsure that the fundamental humanitarian principles -- neutrality, independence, impartiality -- could protect us. We are confident that a principled dialogue with all parties to the conflict is the best way to ensure our presence. This has enabled us to have a bigger operational volume and to expand our dialogue with all parties, for example on the conduct of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian law. These relationships give us confidence to work and we feel comfortable again working in Afghanistan. Our budget has more than doubled from 2006 to 2010, making Afghanistan the ICRC's largest operation.
To learn more about ICRC work in Afghanistan, click here.
Yemen: Harsh Weather Worsens Plight of Civilians in Conflict Zone     
ICRC activities in Yemen in December 2009As conflict rages on in northern Yemen, cold weather is further aggravating an already critical situation.

"The woes of Yemenis affected by the conflict in the north of the country are being made worse by harsh weather and low temperatures, in particular in the governorates of Sa'ada and Amran," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. "The situation is all the more difficult because some basic necessities are not available on the market and prices are soaring."

As fighting drags on in Amran and Sa'ada governorates, especially in Sa'ada city's old town, and along the border with Saudi Arabia, people continue to flee. Over the New Year's period alone, several thousands of displaced people arrived in Sa'ada, some of them to find a temporary home in Al-Jabbana camp, which was set up in November. The camp, originally designed to accommodate around 650 people, is being expanded and is now hosting more than 2,500. With ICRC support, the Yemen Red Crescent Society currently runs five such camps in Sa'ada governorate - four of them in and around Sa'ada city, and a fifth one in Baqim, Mandaba, in the north-west of the governorate.

Yemeni Red Crescent distributes items to displaced people in Khaiwan MedinaSince the outbreak of renewed fighting six months ago, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent have provided aid for more than 150,000 conflict-affected people in Sa'ada and Amran governorates, including some 75,000 displaced people living in or near camps who are still being given food, water, primary medical care and such household essentials as blankets and cooking stoves. Since October 2009, the number of people living in camps for displaced people in Sa'ada governorate has more than doubled, from barely 6,500 to more than 14,000. The ICRC first worked in Yemen during the civil war in the 1960s.
To read more about the ICRC's activities in Yemen, click here.

Fourth Annual International Humanitarian Law Course Held at Santa Clara University School of Law
ICRC Legal Advisor Jamie Williamson instructs a small group in IHLFrom January 5 to 8, the ICRC co-hosted with Santa Clara Law School's Center for Global Law and Policy, the fourth annual International Humanitarian Law (IHL) workshop. This workshop, held in Santa Clara, California, combined lectures and hands-on exercises to guide American law students through an intensive study of IHL. The sessions were led by legal professionals from the ICRC, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Santa Clara University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, and the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School. Approximately 40 law students participated in the workshop representing institutions such as the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Notre Dame, and Washington University in St. Louis.

40 Years from Now, Someone May Read This in the ICRC's Archives
International Prisoners-of-War Agency, Tracing ServiceDid you know that the ICRC collects, preserves and makes available for research ICRC documents dating from the organization's inception to the present day? What's more, the archives comprise 6,700 linear meters of textual records -- that's more than 4 miles of shelves!
Since 1863, reports on all ICRC activities as well as legal and operational correspondence have been stored in the ICRC's archives located at headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The records are subject to a protective embargo of 40 or 60 years, depending on the type of information in question. In practice, this means that records dating up to 1965 have been opened to the general public for consultation. An extensive program to restore and digitize the archives began in 2006 and is expected to be completed in 2012.