November 6, 2007 (GENEVA) — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has distributed relief supplies to 5,560 people who fled their homes to the countryside and villages around Haskanita, North Darfur, following the fighting that took place on 29-30 September.
An ICRC team of 37 staff with 13 trucks has just returned from the Haskanita area, where they spent 10 days assessing the situation and meeting the essential short-term needs of 1,112 families who have lost their homes and all personal belongings.
African Union soldiers abandoned their base near Haskanita town, south east Darfur after an attack blamed on rebels on Sept. 30 that killed 10 AU soldiers and injured a dozen more. The town was left under government control.
A week later U.N. officials confirmed Haskanita town had been razed and all the inhabitants were gone. The army said a fire in the market had caused the destruction.
The ICRC distributed lentils, sorghum, oil, sugar and salt to the most vulnerable people concerned, and provided emergency household items such as sleeping mats, blankets, jerrycans, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, clothing and some urgent medical supplies. ICRC engineers also replaced essential parts and equipment needed to put five water yards back into operation that supply drinking water for 15,000 persons, both residents and displaced people.
“This distribution is the first aid these dispossessed families have received since they had to leave Haskanita a month ago,” said Daniel Muñoz-Rojas, an ICRC field delegate. “Many of them had no shelter and were living under trees. The operation also benefits the host communities, who have been supporting the displaced people for a month now.”
The attack at the end of September was the worst attack on the AU peacekeepers since they deployed in 2004. Despite having grown to 7,000 troops and police, the force has been unable to stem the violence in Darfur and struggled to protect itself.
Khartoum agreed to allow a 26,000-strong joint U.N.-AU force to absorb the AU mission, but has stalled approving the composition of the troops. U.N. officials said Khartoum objected to some infantry pledged by non-African countries.