Gates Foundation grants UN refugee agency $10 million for relief work in south Sudan

Gates Foundation grants UN refugee agency $10 million for relief work in south Sudan

The United Nations refugee agency today announced a $10-million emergency relief grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for health, education, water and sanitation projects to reintegrate hundreds of thousands of Sudanese uprooted by 21 years of civil war in the south of the vast country.

“These projects will help returnees and communities in South Sudan bridge the difficult gap between repatriation, reconstruction and long-term development,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said in a statement. “Equipping communities early on with basic essentials such as clean water and sanitation, schools and health care helps ensure that those who are going home can stay home.”

There are still 350,000 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries waiting to go home to the south, and an estimated 4 million internally displaced persons in Sudan itself, since a peace agreement between the Government and rebels was concluded nearly two years ago.

The new grant will cover immediate needs over a 28-month period in three main sectors – basic health care, education, and water and sanitation – in Western, Central and Eastern Equatoria states as well as the Upper Nile, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

A series of community-based reintegration projects focusing on each sector will benefit 210,000 Sudanese returning refugees as well as some 200,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) going back to their home villages. UNHCR will work with its UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners and local communities in implementing the projects.

Earlier this week heavy fighting broke out between the Sudanese armed forces and members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) near the town of Malakal in what Secretary-General Kofi Annan called a serious breach of the January 2005 peace agreement ending the war.

That war was separate from the continuing strife in the Darfur region where more than 2 million people are estimated to have been uprooted, including 218,000 who fled into Chad. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said last week the number of people in need of aid to survive in Darfur had surged by hundreds of thousands to 4 million in the past six months.

Meanwhile, the President of the UN General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, today welcomed the Human Rights Council’s consensus decision to hold a meeting on Darfur.

“Since the Human Rights Council is a subsidiary of the Assembly, the President has been following closely the work of the Council and has maintained contact with the Chairman on its work,” her spokeswoman, Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, told a press briefing in New York.