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ICRC to Expand Emergency Relief Operations for Sudanese Refugees - 2003-10-22


The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is expanding emergency relief operations for thousands of Sudanese who were forced to flee their homes several weeks ago because of fighting in the Darfur region in the western part of the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says about 400,000 civilians have been displaced by fierce fighting that broke out several weeks ago between the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army. In addition, the ICRC says fighting among various tribal groups in the region has created further chaos.

The agency says among the displaced are more than 40,000 people who have sought refuge in neighboring Chad. It says no foreign organizations are present in the Darfur region. As a consequence, information about the seriousness of the situation has been slow to filter out.

An ICRC spokesman, Juan Martinez, says the agency launched an emergency relief operation in early October for 15,000 people. But, in light of new information, he says, the Red Cross is planning to expand its assistance to 100,000 of the most vulnerable people.

"The situation is still a little bit confused because we have not been everywhere. We still need to go to other places to assess the situation," he said. "Maybe there will be more people. So, we want to intervene everywhere we can… You can imagine when thousands of people leave their homes, they leave usually without anything. So they lack everything."

Mr. Martinez says the ICRC so far has provided safe water for thousands of internally displaced people sheltering in Kurma, a town some 70 kilometers from El Fashir, the capital of northern Darfur.

He says basic medical supplies have been delivered to treat the wounded. In the coming weeks, he says the Red Cross expects to provide blankets, plastic sheeting, clothing, soap and other essential items to 100,000 people.

Mr. Martinez says the Red Cross relief operation will continue to grow as new needs are discovered.

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