Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sudan: Red Crescent prepares for possible election related violence - IFRC disbursed 394,035 Swiss francs from DREF

Sudan: Red Crescent prepares for possible election related violence
From International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
By Anne Wanjiru, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 (via ReliefWeb):
For many Sudanese, taking part in an election was almost like a reverie. Most of them had never been to the polls before. It is a learning experience, even for the leaders vying for electoral seats. The expectations of the 16 million registered voters, neighbouring countries and the international communities are high for Sudan's first multi party elections. If peaceful and successful, these will bring a nation ravaged by a quarter of a century of conflict closer to becoming a democracy.


Tensions, especially in the country's South have been high for months. The Sudanese Red Crescent, together with Movement partners, has been developing and putting into place contingency plans in the event of violence and civil unrest.

With authorities and humanitarian organizations recognizing that the risk for electoral skirmishes between supporters of various political groups was high in 14 states of Sudan, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) disbursed 394,035 Swiss francs (366,708 US dollar or 269,170 euro) from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Sudanese Red Crescent's election contingency planning and training scheme.

Close to 40,000 volunteers mainly in the high risk areas such as Jonglei, Blue Nile and Kordofan have received refresher training in emergency first aid as well as offering psychological support. They are on stand by for deployment in the event of civil unrest and election related violence.

Emergency communication equipment

One of the crucial elements of the Red Crescent's plan is having efficient emergency communication equipment installed and functioning. As the leading indigenous emergency response agency throughout Sudan, the Red Crescent has been requested to coordinate communication at national and state levels.

Sudan is the largest country of Africa measuring almost four times the size of France. Sharing of information between the headquarters of the Red Crescent in Khartoum and branches across a surface of more than 2.5 million square kilometres is a challenge but also the key to ensure quick response in case of an emergency.

The IFRC's information systems manager for Eastern Africa, David Kola, was sent to the country to give support in setting up the emergency telecommunications equipment. He visited 13 branches and 3 sub branches in 16 locations in the north. In just three weeks, he covered more than 7,500 kilometres of vast land in the Blue Nile, Dongola, Kadugli, Albara and Port Sudan regions to name just a few.

"In each branch, at least two volunteers were trained on how to handle the telecommunications equipment and will be the focal persons in responding. All emergency centres in the north and south are now running 24 hours a day and are well connected," says Kola.

Little infrastructure

The elections have been extended by another two days to give more time to the voters in the South, most of whom are illiterate and struggling with the complicated voting system that requires them to go through 12 different ballot papers. "The region's infrastructure is almost non-existent, devastated by years of civil war, making the elections process complex to say the least," says Kola.

"Telecommunication equipment was also installed in four branches in south Sudan. Thanks to our contribution, information can be relayed quickly. And, while we hope for the best we're prepared for the worst: any occurrence of violence will trigger an immediate response from trained Red Crescent volunteers," he adds.

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