With Sudan facing mass displacement from strife in its Darfur region, a flood of refugees returning to its war-ravaged south and humanitarian emergencies nationwide, the United Nations today appealed for desperately needed funds to fill a huge shortfall in aid for Africa's largest country.
Declaring that all of these aid operations "remain grossly under-funded," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pointed out that even as the recent conflict in Darfur dominates the headlines, only about 40 per cent of the requested $722 million has been received, with $434 million still outstanding to meet Sudan's overall needs till year's end.
"While the number of people in critical need of humanitarian assistance has skyrocketed in Darfur in recent months, I implore the international community to also remember the plight of millions of vulnerable people struggling to survive all over the country," the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Manuel Aranda Da Silva said.
In the south, where prospects of a peace agreement in the 20-year war between the Government and rebels has sparked the spontaneous return of an estimated 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), a mere $17 million of the $153 million required for the resettlement has so far been received. Just this month, an interagency assessment team confirmed that more than 50 returnees died from starvation.
Already strained populations in the south are now forced to share scarce resources with returnees, and aid agencies predict that once the rainy season ends next month tens of thousands more people may return, leading to a potential humanitarian emergency.
A further $110 million is still needed to assist more than 3 million people living under extremely fragile conditions in southern, central and eastern regions where poor maize harvests have compounded the situation.
In Darfur, a staggering $188 million is still needed to meet the needs of some 1.5 million people who fled their homes after Arab militias launched a scorched-earth campaign of violence and intimidation against a mainly Muslim African civilian population perceived to be rebel sympathizers, according to OCHA. The UN predicts 2 million people could need humanitarian aid by October.
"Aid agencies averted an apocalyptic catastrophe by gaining access to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by war over the past couple of months, but the humanitarian crisis is far from over," Mr. Aranda Da Silva said. "Hundreds of thousands of families displaced by terrorizing militias are completely dependant on relief for survival. Many are still empty-handed and with interagency assessments underway, we could see the amount of people needing help rise exponentially over the next weeks and months."
Overall funds required for the Darfur crisis have been revised upwards to $365 million from $250 million requested in March. The additional $115 million will mainly be used for UN World Food Programme (WFP) air operations to meet the increased demands.
Meanwhile, Mr. Aranda da Silva and the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan Jan Pronk held a press conference in Khartoum on the eve of tomorrow's mission to Darfur by a verification team charged with observing whether Khartoum is making progress on the commitments it made to restore security and protect civilians from attacks by the militias, known as the Janjaweed.
Mr. Pronk said although the Sudanese Government had taken some positive steps, he remained concerned about the safety of the vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur.
Mr. Pronk also said it was vital that the Sudanese Government and Darfur's two main rebel groups choose a political solution to their conflict. Officials from Khartoum as well as the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are meeting at talks in Abuja, Nigeria.