The European Commission is extremely concerned about the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in the Greater Darfur region of Sudan, where a violent conflict has been raging since early 2003. The ceasefire signed in N'Djamena on 8 April is clearly a welcome development, particularly insofar as it commits the parties to allow fast and unrestricted humanitarian access and to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance in accordance with international humanitarian law and principles. However, there is a long way to go before durable stability and, eventually, peace can be re-established. In the meantime, protection remains a top priority and daunting humanitarian needs in all sectors will have to be addressed.
This vast region of eastern Sudan is one of the poorest in the country. It is estimated that thousands of people have died over the past 12 months as a direct or indirect consequence of the conflict. About 2 million people - a third of the entire population of the Darfur region - are badly affected. 1,000,000 people have been displaced within Sudan and approximately 200,000 people have fled across the border into Chad. Serious violations of human rights have been reported by the UN and human rights organisations, and most specialised agencies and other observers warn that the humanitarian situation can only get worse. The European Commission has urged the Government of Sudan to abide by its obligations regarding the protection of its own civilians. This includes actively disarming and prosecuting armed groups acting against civilians. The European Commission has further called upon the Government of Sudan to facilitate the establishment of a truly conducive environment in which a serious and meaningful humanitarian operation can be mounted.
According to the United Nations, needs in most sectors (food, shelter, clean water, primary health care) are only being partially met. Relief organisations have had problems reaching people requiring assistance. Only about 350,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have started to receive aid. Lengthy procedures are required to obtain visas and travel permits and a number of humanitarian agencies have been denied access to Darfur. The security situation remains extremely precarious for resident civilians and also aid workers are operating under difficult and at times unsafe conditions. Access is further confined by poor road infrastructure, the size of the territory affected (roughly equivalent to France), the large number of locations and pockets in which IDPs are located as well as the forthcoming rainy season. Supplies must often be delivered by air. This makes relief operations very expensive.
Most uprooted people are agro-pastoralists who have lost all their livestock, seeds, tools and other vital assets due to systematic looting. They are unable to return home in time for the current planting season for security reasons. Crops, water sources and irrigation channels have been destroyed, which makes return and resettlement difficult if not impossible. Child malnutrition levels are alarming in some areas. It is possible that a large-scale food crisis will develop, and the situation can only be kept under control through massive general food distribution and other types of nutritional support. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is in the process of mounting a massive food aid operation that will eventually cater for the needs of 2 million people in November and December 2004, assuming access is granted.
Commission's response so far
The Commission has concentrated its action in the key areas of conflict resolution, promoting a political settlement, humanitarian aid and preparing for reconstruction and development when conditions allow. To achieve these aims the Commission expects to spend 104.4 million euros this year. This represents 37% of EU response to the Darfur crisis currently estimated at 285 million for 2004.
With strong support from the EU, the African Union (AU) has taken the lead in the areas of conflict resolution and promoting a political settlement. The Commission has for the first time used its new Africa Peace Facility which provides 250 million euros to finance AU initiatives in these areas.
The Commission provided 400,000 euros from the Rapid Reaction Mechanism to facilitate talks between Government and rebels which led to a cease-fire. The observation of the cease-fire by the AU is 60% financed by the Peace Facility (12 million euros) of which 9.2 million euros has been transferred to the AU so far. The Commission has indicated its willingness to increase funding for this crucial operation if the AU so requests.
A project for improving human rights in rural areas for 0.3 million is implemented by the British NGO SOAT (Sudan Organization Against Torture). Monitoring activities in Darfur are programmed.
The Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and its EuropeAid Co-operation Office has been funding humanitarian programmes in Darfur, as well as in the rest of Sudan, for more than ten years. The Commission started its enhanced response to the current crisis as early as autumn last year with decisions worth 14 million euros for victims of the crisis in Western Sudan and across the border in Chad. As the crisis escalated at the beginning of 2004, the Commission decided to step up its response massively allocating 92 million for humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur in 2004, in addition to its regular humanitarian programme for Sudan worth 30 million. Further financial decisions are not excluded if new needs are identified. The aid should improve the basic living conditions of up to one million victims of the conflict. The strategy for Darfur is based on a rolling programme that responds to needs as they arise, and as our partners obtain the capacity to meet existing needs.
The 92 million euro fund for 2004 is in response to recent appeals by the UN, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), other international aid agencies and international NGOs and will be used to provide integrated emergency assistance to the affected populations, including:
- Food aid: almost half the funds will be channelled through the WFP for purchase of cereals (to the extent possible on the local Sudanese market), transport and distribution to the needy;
- Protection activities: Measures to improve respect of international humanitarian law (including awareness-raising among warring parties), and care for victims of sexual violence and traumatic events;
- Shelter: Provision of plastic sheeting and/or local building materials;
- Non-food items: Clothing, blankets, soap, cooking utensils and fuel, water containers, sleeping mats and mosquito nets;
- Food security: Targeted support to provision of seeds and tools to farmers able to cultivate and targeted animal health interventions;
- Water: Repair of existing water sources, provision of sanitation in camps and water tankering where necessary;
- Health care: Therapeutic and supplementary feeding, disease prevention, and emergency care for victims of the violence (including mobile medical teams).
ECHO has also been active in raising awareness among the donor and humanitarian community about the current crisis and the constraints faced by humanitarian organisations.
Reconstruction and development are dependent on the resumption of bilateral cooperation with Sudan financed from the European Development Fund. This in turn is conditional upon the signature of a comprehensive peace agreement, currently under discussion. In the meantime, the Commission is financing some initiatives as part of its "Linking Relief Rehabilitation and Development" (LRRD) strategy, notably:
- Humanitarian Plus Programme (namely Water and Sanitation Food Security and Health activities implemented through INGOs). The total budget for this programme is ?18 million for projects throughout Sudan. Current projects in Darfur are in the region of 1.5 million euros implemented through two international and one local NGOs.
- A second phase of the Humanitarian Plus Programme, for an amount of 12.7 million is in the formulation phase. Darfur will be a focal area and it will receive a significant share.
Upon the signature of a comprehensive Peace Agreement, two contribution agreements will be signed with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in order to channel 60 million euros as part of a Quick Start Intervention across the country. Darfur will be one of the focal areas.