Sudan: ICRC will not rest until abducted staff member Gauthier Lefèvre is freed
The ICRC is renewing its appeal for the release of staff member Gauthier Lefèvre, taken hostage in West Darfur, Sudan, on 22 October 2009.
Daniel Duvillard, ICRC head of operations for East Africa, explains the efforts under way to resolve the crisis.
Is an end to the ordeal in sight, almost 120 days after Gauthier was abducted?
On 6 February, it was with immense joy and relief that we learned of the release of another colleague, Laurent Maurice, who was freed in Sudan after having been abducted 89 days before in eastern Chad. Now we hope and expect that the ordeal for our colleague Gauthier will be over soon. Today marks 125 days of his captivity. Each day that passes is one day too long for himself, his family and for everybody here at the ICRC.
We are continuing to do everything we can to bring about his safe and rapid release. We are in contact with the abductors and with the national and local authorities and are following developments closely. Our priority is to ensure that Gauthier is let go without any further delay and without conditions. The responsibility for the treatment and well-being of our colleague is in his abductors' hands.
We are acutely aware of the pain and distress experienced by Gauthier's family. We want them to know that we are doing everything we can to bring about his swift release. We try to comfort them, but only the release of their loved one will bring them any real relief.
What was the aim of the recent visit of the ICRC President in Sudan?
On 9 February, ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger met in Khartoum with the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, to discuss efforts to secure the prompt release of Gauthier. President Kellenberger thanked the Sudanese government for having secured the release of ICRC delegate Laurent Maurice. At the same time, president Al Bashir confirmed to president Kellenberger that his government is fully committed to doing everything it can to ensure Gauthier's safety, and to secure his speedy release.
What impact are the abductions having on your activities in Sudan?
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 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 (IDPs) in Gereida, South Darfur. We are continuing to provide support for primary health-care centres and other local facilities, and for the activities of the Sudanese Red Crescent.
In remote areas of Darfur where very few other organizations can go, the ICRC had been involved in a range of activities such as making clean drinking water available and helping people support themselves through farming or herding. The fact that we have been forced to curtail our field presence means that we now provide fewer of these services. We deeply regret this situation. Our overriding priority is to obtain the release of our staff member as quickly as possible so that we can again bring all our resources to bear on the humanitarian work that needs to be done.
Finally, we want to stress that although our activities have been scaled down in particular areas, elsewhere in Sudan we are carrying on with our work as before.
|International Review of the Red Cross, 2009 - No. 875|
Whether within or across borders, the displacement of persons remains a pressing humanitarian concern. Millions of people are separated from their homes, livelihoods and families each year by armed conflict or other catastrophes, and frequently suffer severe abuses and hardship while in flight or at their place of refuge. This issue aims to give a comprehensive picture of the phenomenon of displacement: its causes, its scale, and the challenges faced by the people affected, as well as the response of government authorities and humanitarian actors (particularly the ICRC and the Federation).
Our World At War: On the Move
Our World At War is taking a short break from its tour. Thank you to all who have supported the exhibition.
In 2010, the ICRC plans to bring the exhibit to Seattle, Washington; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the San Francisco Bay Area, California.
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.
News and NotesFebruary 2010
The ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada
is relieved to announce that on February 6, after being abducted in eastern Chad
on November 9, 2009 and held captive for 89 days, ICRC staff member Laurent Maurice regained his freedom. An interview with Laurent conducted shortly after his release is below. Sadly, yesterday marked 125 days ICRC staff member Gauthier Lefèvre, taken hostage on October 22, 2009 in West Darfur
, has been held captive. The ICRC renews its appeal for his safe release.
We also invite you to mark your calendars for March 8, International Women's Day. In the coming months, we look forward to taking a deeper look at the ways in which armed conflict affects women around the world.
In addition, we bring you the latest news from Haiti
, where the ICRC is working as part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's response to the devastating January 12 earthquake. As the rainy season nears, concerns have now turned to shelter and sanitation needs.
Next, we say good-bye to our friend and colleague Jens-Martin Mehler, the delegation's Protection Coordinator for the past two years. Read on for a "pre-departure interview" with Jens. We wish him well on his next assignment.
Finally, we would like to thank everyone who took part in our recent newsletter feedback survey. We are in the process of reviewing all the suggestions and comments and you will see many of your ideas incorporated in the months ahead. We are continuously looking for new and improved ways to share information about our activities worldwide; for those of you who want up-to-the minute insights from the ICRC, we invite you to follow the ICRC on Twitter
The ICRC Washington Delegation
Sudan/Chad: released ICRC worker Laurent Maurice talks about his experience
ICRC agronomist Laurent Maurice was freed by his abductors 89 days after he was kidnapped in eastern Chad. Several days after his release, Laurent shares his feelings about the ordeal.
You were released three days ago (February 6). How are you feeling?How has the kidnapping affected your future plans regarding the ICRC and humanitarian work?
For a start, I can laugh out loud now. Expressing myself during captivity was not easy, as I was not supposed to attract attention. Since my release, I've spoken to many friends and colleagues. I was able to talk to my family on the phone and I'll be able to see them soon. They're very happy to have spoken to me, but they want to see their son, feel him and see how he's looking after his kidnapping.
How did the kidnappers treat you?
Like a guest, but I kept a distance from them to show respect, in order to win their respect. They generally gave me European food, and at times I got a bit fed up of macaroni twice a day. But even though they treated me well, I was being held against my will.
Were you aware of what was going on in the world?
The kidnappers gave me a radio whenever I asked for one, so for instance I listened to the news about the environment conference in Copenhagen. But the radio was more than just a source of news; it was a way for my mind to escape from what I was going through. It was a way to leave the area, to move around outside the setting I was restricted to. Then reality would catch up with me. It was a form of temporary relief.
This is my vocation and my profession. I started in the humanitarian field in 1998 and always wanted to work for the ICRC one day. Now I do, and I want to continue. People affected by armed conflict who need protection and assistance have nothing to do with the kidnappers. They need clean drinking water, better harvests, food, shelter, etc. I chose to work in the humanitarian field in order to help people.
When did you know that you were going to be released?
The kidnappers told me the day before. I reckon I only slept for about an hour that night. I lay awake looking at the stars and the moon, wondering whether it was really going to happen, whether I would finally be freed. Then, after all this time in captivity, things seemed to happen suddenly, just like that. You know that you are free when it happens.
I want to thank everyone who contributed to my release and encourage them to continue doing their best to free Gauthier.
What message do you want to send Gauthier?
My message is one of hope. I hope that Gauthier will soon be freed. I want to tell him that a mountain of happy things is waiting for him. There is so much love, so much hope, so many friends and tons of messages. I hope that my release will lead to your being released really soon. I know it's not easy to wait day after day to be set free. But I have no doubt that your freedom will come soon.
March 8 - International Women's Day
Countless women and girls all over the world suffer the trauma of war - as widows or orphans, perhaps displaced from their homes, sometimes detained. They are often separated from loved ones and become victims of violence and intimidation. For the most part they are civilians caught in the crossfire, and show astonishing resourcefulness and resilience in coping with the disintegration of their families, the loss of their home and their belongings and the destruction of their lives.
Women can also be fighters, and as such are due the same respect as men if wounded or captured. They are also bound by the same rules prohibiting illegal acts against other fighters or civilians.
International humanitarian law, which grants general protection to all war victims, regardless of gender, provides extensive specific protection for women in war
. If these rules were better observed, the suffering faced by women in war would be greatly reduced.
The ICRC has programs tailored to meet the needs of women affected by conflict based upon field experience and research
. In observance of International Women's Day, we would like to bring your attention to the hardship faced by women affected by war, but also highlight their extraordinary strength and resilience. On March 8, we will have a special edition of our newsletter focusing on this issue.
Haiti earthquake: displaced people urgently need shelter and sanitation
One month after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January, tens of thousands are still living in the open air. The race is on to get everyone under cover before the rainy season starts in just a few weeks.
Squalid living conditions
Thanks to the joint efforts of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, other aid agencies and the national authorities, people in the camps now have enough water for their basic needs. The ICRC is distributing water daily to 16,000 people at ten sites around Port-au-Prince.
Despite the efforts of many aid agencies, disposing of solid waste and rubbish in the camps remains a huge problem. As well as installing latrines, it is essential to maintain and clean them. "The worst thing is the smell from the waste water and sludge running past the front of our tent," commented a grandmother sitting with her grandson on her knee in a camp in Delmas. The ICRC is financing the removal of rubbish in the areas of Place Boyer, Place St-Pierre, Delmas 60 and Primature.
Although local markets are busy, prices are high, making life just that bit harder. This was confirmed by women doing their washing in front of their tents. "The price of washing powder has gone up by about 20 per cent," said Sherley Cangé, a teacher and mother of two children, one of whom broke both her legs in the earthquake.
On a positive note, people have started to return to their homes in recent days, at least during the day. Some are building small shelters, using anything that comes to hand for shade. Others are scouring the rubble for possessions they can salvage. "The problem is that we have nowhere to store the things we rescue from the ruins," remarked Marie Rose. The mother of two has been keeping watch over her damaged property since the first day, in case of looters.
Restoring family links
The ICRC is working closely with Haitian Red Cross volunteers on tracing, first aid, water and sanitation and the distribution of food and other aid. The overall international Red Cross and Red Crescent relief effort is being coordinated and led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. For more details on the overall Red Cross and Red Crescent response to the earthquake, please visit the Federation website
The ICRC and the Haitian National Red Cross Society are combining their efforts to trace missing persons and to keep separated families in touch with each other, providing a crucial lifeline for tens of thousands of Haitians. Haitian Red Cross volunteers run the tracing posts where people can register their names on the ICRC tracing website
or make satellite phone calls. The database currently contains over 26,000 names, including those of 4,061 people in Haiti announcing that they are alive. Two new tracing posts were established this week in Port-au-Prince. In addition, tracing teams are setting up posts in Cap-Haitïen, Léogane and Gonaïves, so that people living in areas where communications are still precarious can use the ICRC's tracing services. More tracing posts should be opening in Grand-Goâve and Petit-Goâve in the coming days.Aid for detainees
In early February, delegates visited 700 detainees in nine places of detention in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitïen. Repairs to the water supply and electricity system at Port-au-Prince's badly damaged Civilian Prison began on 5 February and are continuing. Thirty workers have cleaned and disinfected four accommodation blocks, the prison kitchen and the dispensary. The prison is currently closed, but is due to reopen shortly.
The ICRC has donated a basic health kit and a dressing kit, comprising enough medical supplies to treat 1,000 patients for three months, to the Department of Prison Administration, for use in their health facilities in Cap Haitian, Fort Liberté and Port de Paix. The organization supplied another dressing kit to a local hospital for the prison in Grande Rivière du Nord in the north of the country.
First-aid posts and water supplies
The ICRC is supervising 12 Haitian Red Cross first-aid posts in Port-au-Prince, and has re-launched a programme of hygiene promotion in collaboration with camp committee leaders. Two first-aid posts have been established in Petit-Goâve. In the north of the country, the ICRC this week delivered medicines to the provincial health authorities for use in local hospitals.
ICRC engineers, working in cooperation with the Port-au-Prince water board and the local water committee in the impoverished suburb of Cité Soleil, have begun repairing six broken water pipes.
Food and household supplies
The ICRC has delivered food and household supplies to people living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince. Everyone is anxious for food, and on the whole the distributions have gone well. On 5 February, 730 families (3,900 people) living in an area next to the Prime Minister's office received enough rice, beans, cooking oil and other basic supplies to last them for two weeks.
The ICRC also delivered food to 700 families based at the compound of the Salesian Fathers. The same group will receive tarpaulins, buckets, kitchen sets and other household supplies in the coming days. On 10 February, the ICRC delivered food to the Salesian Nuns, enabling them to feed 1,500 displaced families currently living in their compound.
To read more about the ICRC's work in Haiti, click here
|Pre-departure Interview with Jens-Martin Mehler, ICRC Washington's Protection Coordinator
As Protection Coordinator in the Regional Delegation of the United States and Canada, Jens-Martin Mehler was in charge of ICRC's visits to Guantanamo Bay. Additionally, he served as a focal point on the ICRC's relationship with U.S. authorities with respect to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before internees are released or transferred, the ICRC conducts a pre-departure interview to determine if the individuals have fears about the move. As Jens-Martin is leaving us, we decided to turn the tables and ask him a few questions about his time in Washington, DC, and his next steps. Describe the past two years in terms of your work with the ICRC. What moments stand out for you?
One event that stands out in particular was the visit of the ICRC president in April 2009
. It is rare that an ICRC delegate has the chance to work with the ICRC president, and it was very interesting to watch him at work and to accompany him to meetings with the Secretary of Defense, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Director of National Intelligence. Another moment that stands out for me was the change in presidential administration one year ago. It was the first time I saw a U.S. presidential inauguration, and I enjoyed seeing how that process works. In addition, I greatly enjoyed working with colleagues from the American Red Cross
. They are very dedicated to their work. I also had the opportunity to travel to Seattle, Washington, to work with the American Red Cross chapter there
. This was not only a rich professional experience but also a rich personal experience, which I very much appreciated. What is your next mission? Do you make this decision to leave of your own free will?
This question is one I ask internees: if they are going home, do they do so of their own free will without any fear? In my situation, the ICRC informed me that my next mission could be as protection coordinator in the northern Caucasus
, in our sub-delegation in Nalchik. I was actually very glad to accept and to be again part of a field mission. Our most important task will be to look for persons missing since the beginning of the conflict in the 1990s. What advice do you have for anyone considering life as an ICRC delegate?
Working in the humanitarian field can be very time consuming and stressful. My first piece of advice would be to not forget about having a private life. Before joining the ICRC, you have to be aware that family life might not be easy. One should be prepared to be away from home for a long time, and that can be hard. In addition, it is very important to have good relationships with your colleagues and to keep communication lines open. That is one of the most important aspects of working in an ICRC mission, especially if a mission is difficult.
But ICRC delegates must remember the support that exists for them; they are part of the biggest humanitarian network on the planet. The ICRC has so much history, as it was founded in the mid 19th century. If you are an ICRC delegate in the field, you can count on the institution and its weight in dealing with authorities or with particularly difficult situations.
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