The aim of prison visits is to improve conditions of detention for the people detained, ensure humane treatment, and put detainees in contact with their families. The findings of the visits are shared exclusively with the authorities concerned on a confidential basis.
“Our ongoing dialogue with the authorities in Ethiopia has been very positive. It has led to a resumption of our visits to people held in federal prisons and to a gradual expansion of our detention-related activities in the regions. We are very pleased with this development,” said Ariane Tombet, head of the ICRC delegation in Ethiopia. “In addition, we are stepping up our cooperation with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society.”
From January to November, on 25 visits to 21 federal and regional prisons, the ICRC visited nearly 30,600 detainees and checked on the conditions in which they were being held.
Restoring contact between family members
The ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross continue to help family members dispersed by conflict – mainly Ethiopian and Eritrean civilians separated by the closed border, but also Sudanese and Somali refugees in camps – to restore contact with one another and to exchange news. Refugees have been given the opportunity to make nearly 10,000 phone calls to relatives from camps in Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella regions.
During the first 11 months of the year, the ICRC received 5,766 requests for tracing services. In addition, 2,930 Red Cross messages were collected and 2,836 distributed; of these, 160 were collected from and two were addressed to prisoners, and 97 were distributed to unaccompanied minors. In addition, the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross gave Ethiopian returnees from Saudi Arabia the opportunity to make 5,824 free phone calls, including 106 that were made by unaccompanied children.
Assistance to displaced people
The ICRC has been working with the authorities and rural communities to improve access to clean water for more than 100,000 people living in the rural border areas hardest hit by the past conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and in communities hosting Sudanese refugees, by building or upgrading water points.
More than 48,000 people displaced by intercommunal clashes in the East and West Hararghe zones of Oromia region and in Moyale, also in Oromia region on the border with Kenya, have been provided with shelter materials and household essentials. In the Bench Maji zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, 26,000 returnees have been given seed and tools to help them back on their feet again. In addition, the families of 140 people who went missing in connection with the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and of 100 former prisoners of war during the 1977-1978 conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia have received training and financial support to help them earn a living.
The ICRC has provided the Ethiopian Red Cross with 1,000 blankets and 250 sleeping mats for returnees from Saudi Arabia. In addition, over 600 people who returned to Tigray from Eritrea have been given blankets and hygiene items.
Physical rehabilitation for the disabled
With the aim of making quality services available for people with disabilities, the ICRC is providing support for seven existing physical rehabilitation centres and for three further centres that will be up and running in 2014. Nearly 6,600 patients, many of them injured in armed conflict or other violence, have been treated at the centres. Staff at all the ICRC-supported centres not only produce and fit prostheses and orthoses, they also assemble wheelchairs for patients. A total of 24 basketball wheelchairs – specially designed to enable people with physical disabilities to play the sport – have been donated to the Dires House of Sports in Addis Ababa, the Amhara Sports Commission and Mekele University.
Twenty-three trainees graduated as orthopaedic technicians in May upon completion of a three-year nationally accredited training course run jointly by the ICRC and five government institutions. Some of the graduates will be employed in the new physical rehabilitation centres to be opened in 2014. A further 24 students have enrolled for training.
Promotion of international humanitarian law
Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has organized a number of information sessions to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law among the authorities, the armed forces and the media. A total of 125 Ethiopian Air Force personnel attended sessions prior to their deployment on peace-keeping missions in Abyei, an area claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.
More than 900 federal and regional police personnel, 45 members of parliament, 40 senior federal government officials and 230 judges and prosecutors have attended information sessions on the basic rules of international humanitarian law. Thirty lecturers and instructors and more than 400 law students have also attended sessions. In addition, together with the Ethiopian Red Cross, the ICRC has presented the activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the basic principles of international humanitarian law to more than 700 regional officials.