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Sudan: UN in ‘desperate need’ of funds for Darfur refugees as rains approach

Sudan: UN in ‘desperate need’ of funds for Darfur refugees as rains approach

Refugee women battle the elements in town of Tine
The United Nations refugee agency today appealed for an urgent injection of new funds to meet its "desperate" needs in caring for more than 120,000 black Sudanese who have fled into eastern Chad from what has been called ethnic cleansing by mainly Arab militia in Sudan's western Darfur region.

With the rainy season starting in a few weeks, "we desperately need funds to continue moving refugees to safer camps away from the border, set up more camps for the tens of thousands yet to move and bring in sufficient supplies to meet their needs," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Kris Janowski said.

"An urgent injection of new funds is crucial to keep our programmes running and meet the looming deadline of the onset of heavy rains that will block roads and cut access to the refugees," he told a news briefing in Geneva. The agency has so far received only about two-thirds of the nearly $21 million it has sought, has used it all up and is now resorting to money borrowed from its operational reserve funds.

"The situation at the border is very tense and the refugees are under constant threat of incursions from the other side…hence the urgency of moving them further inland," Mr. Janowski said, stressing that the agency was working in one of the most inhospitable terrains it has ever had to operate in, battling desert, extremely scarce water, sand storms and scant and very poor sandy roads.

So far, UNHCR has set up six camps in the interior of Chad for over 68,000 refugees, 58,000 of them brought in by agency convoys from the border while another 10,000 arrived on their own.

Last week UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director James Morris called the situation "one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world" and last month Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said the mainly Arab Janjaweed militias were carrying out a coordinated "scorched-earth" campaign of ethnic cleansing.

A ceasefire signed on 8 April between the Sudanese Government and two rebel groups in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), is holding, but the same is not true for attacks by the Janjaweed against civilians, including internally displaced persons in and around camps, Mr. Morris told the Security Council.