March 7, 2009
FROM: CHARLIE MCCORMACK and CAROLYN MILES
Dear Board Members,
Just wanted to provide another update on the situation in Sudan:
- As per our earlier communication, all operations have been suspended under the revoking of our registration to work in the country in response to the ICC ruling on the President Al-Bashir as a war criminal
- The impact on humanitarian programs in Darfur will be very great - we were up to this week feeding close to 500,000 people, delivering medical care and supplies to tens of thousands, and managing large numbers of schools and health facilities in the displaced persons camps of West Darfur. In all we have been reaching over 1 million people. As one of our largest programs around the world, the number of children and family members impacted, staff employed, and assets under management for this program is very large. At this point there are negotiations underway to try to move these programs under WFP and UN offices but it is doubtful the capacity will be there to continue the programs uninterrupted. We are also speaking to Catholic Relief Services and World Vision as there have not been any faith-based agencies yet affected.
- We are working all channels both here in the US and in Sudan and the region on the impact of this action on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and the reversal of the action. The likelihood for significant unrest in the country will grow as the number of days passes without delivery of critical programs and services. However, it appears this is purely a political decision made by the Government of Sudan and as such will be hard to reverse.
- While we continue to pursue a two-pronged strategy of cooperating with the government authorities in closing down our programs and pursuing re-entry, it appears we will have to remove our international staff and we expect they will begin leaving in the next two days. We currently have 37 international staff in the country and they will intially be relocated to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Under the order, we would also be required to fire all 800+ local staff and pay significant severance under Sudanese labor law.
- There is a significant financial risk in the closing of this program and the possible seizure of agency and donor assets. While the government has at this point not seized assets and only "taken stock" that remains a high risk. In addition the cost of relocation, severance and redeployment of almost 1,000 staff will be significant. While we are reviewing insurance policies it appears that some of these costs may not be recoverable.
Our staff in Khartoum, Addis and here in the US are working very hard to make the best decisions through this difficult situation. Any thoughts or advice you have, please do get in touch and we will keep you updated. Our utmost concern is that of the impact of the closure of this program on the children and familes of Darfur and the significant worsening of an already horrible humanitarian situation.
Below is some additional background-
Basic facts from our Khartoum Country Director Halane Hussein:
How long have we been working in Sudan?
Save the Children USA has been working in Sudan for 25 years. (Save the Children UK has been in Sudan for over 50 years.
Are we working in Darfur?
Up until March 5th - Yes, Save the Children USA received permission from the Sudanese government to enter the conflict ravaged region of Darfur, where a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in March 2004. By the end of 2004 we were the only international aid agency simultaneously addressing the monthly food, water, shelter, health and protection needs of hundreds of thousands of displaced children and members of their families, especially women.
At the five-year anniversary of our initial deployment to West Darfur, Save the Children remained by the side of children and women still unable to return to their villages and communities because of the region’s instability and fluctuations in violence. Many roads in Darfur are unsafe because of armed groups; the violence has also periodically affected Save the Children and our local staff directly. While Save the Save the Children remained vigilant to security conditions, we continued to provide a lifeline of food, clean water, nutrition interventions, basic and reproductive health care, protection and education programs to children and women in camps and communities throughout West Darfur up until late this week.
What were you doing in Sudan?
Save the Children USA was providing essential support to more than 1 million children and their families including food, clean water, nutritional interventions, basic and reproductive health care, protection and education programs for children and women in camps and communities throughout Sudan. We don’t know what the outcome of these developments will be, but we do know that if we are forced to stop our work for any period the lives of hundreds of thousands of children could be at risk.
Will this have an impact on your work in Southern Sudan?
We don’t know what sort of impact this might have, but any break down in the peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan would have grave implications for children. It’s essential that aid agencies like Save the Children continue to be able to deliver life-saving assistance to children across the country.
What should the US government do?
The US government must explore every possible avenue to get the suspension requests revoked and ensure aid agencies like Save the Children are able to continue delivering essential aid in Sudan. It’s imperative that international attention urgently focus on Sudan and that world leaders come together now to unite behind finding a solution to this conflict.
- UN estimates 300,000 people have been killed during the six-year conflict in Darfur.
- UN estimates 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
MARCH 5, 2009
Dear Colleagues --
As you all are probably aware from the news, the Government of Sudan has taken some action following the ICC ruling on President al-Bashir and in that connection, Save the Children received a letter last evening which revoked our registration to operate in the country. CARE, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Doctors Without Boarders and the International Rescue Committee, among other NGOs, have also all been asked to leave. All staff are safe and accounted for and we are currently relocating international staff back to Khartoum where we believe they will be processed to depart. In addition, we're cooperating with the Government of Sudan in its requests related to reviewing all of SC/US' assets in the country.
Our strategy will be to reenter Sudan and reestablish our work there as soon as possible, but at this point, all operations have been suspended. It is unclear how long it will be until we are able to return. In the meantime, we are not making any statements against the Sudanese Government -- all of our messages are focused on the humanitarian crisis that is being faced by children and their families.
At present, the registration of Save the Children/Sweden has not been revoked in Sudan, and we are working with them to see how we might continue some of our operations through their efforts.
The Save the Children/US Crisis Management Team met today and will be meeting again tomorrow to assess the situation. Additional updates will be provided to the Board of Trustees as things develop. Please don't hesitate to contact either of us if you have any questions.