A delegation of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, on Wednesday to discuss the return of the organisation to Sudan.
The head of the delegation and ICRC deputy head to Sudan, Bertrand Bern, said in a press statement after his meeting yesterday that his delegation came to discuss and arrange the return of the aid organisation and its activities in South Kordofan.
The Red Cross has stopped its operations in the war-torn state for years after the Sudanese government started to deny the organisation access to the area.
The delegation also aimed to assess the humanitarian situation and the real and necessary needs of the residents who want to return from the camps for displaced people and returning refugees. ICRC wants to sit down and coordinate the approach with partners such as the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, and the relevant ministries, to obtain the required information.
Bern stressed that there will be a “strong return” of the Red Cross in the state, thanks to planning and the design of projects. “These will fill the remnants of the vacuum left by the war, and meet the needs and aspirations of targeted communities.”
The Sudanese army has been fighting rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, also known as the Two Areas, since 2011.
Red Cross in Sudan
The Sudanese authorities suspended Red Cross activities in Sudan on 1 February 2014, citing technical issues, and asked the organisation to review the country agreement that sets out its legal and diplomatic status in the country. Sources at the time said the suspension came in place because the ICRC and the Sudanese government were not able to reach an agreement on the activities the organisation conducts in the country.
In 2013, the year before the suspension of the Red Cross, more than 426,000 Sudanese living in areas affected by conflict received food aid from the ICRC. Over 325,000 people received farming tools and seed, and . nomadic communities in Darfur were supported with vaccination campaigns for more than a million animals. The Red Cross also improved access to clean water for more than 708,000 people in Darfur.
The Red Cross has been working in Sudan since 1978 and extended its operations to Darfur in 2003. The organisation's mandate is set out in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, to which Sudan, along with 194 other States, is party.
In April this year, Sudan also granted the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) access to previously unreachable areas such as Kurmuk (Blue Nile), Golo (Central Darfur) and Belle El Sereif (South Darfur); the latter had not been accessible for over five years. The improvement of access for humanitarian organisations in Sudan is one of the five criteria the United States assesses the country on, for the possible lifting of economic sanctions. At the end of 2016, the administration of former President Barak Obama began working on these criteria for permanent lifting of sanctions – though Sudan would remain branded a sponsor of terrorism according to the USA.