The top United Nations relief official today called for more than $2 billion for humanitarian projects next year in Sudan, with almost half of the funds being earmarked for the war-torn region of Darfur, where violence has uprooted nearly half the 6 million-strong population.
The $2.2 billion for the Sudan Work Plan is part of the larger Consolidated Appeal launched yesterday that has a $7 billion price tag – making it the largest appeal ever – and seeks to provide urgent aid to 30 million people in 31 countries. It dwarfs by far last year's call for $3.8 billion for 25 million people.
Speaking in Geneva today, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said that while a quarter of the needs for Sudan have been met, over $1.5 billion is still needed for the vast nation in 2009.
“The extent of the appeal to donors is even more ambitious given the global economic environment and the parallel needs swelling in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Ethiopia and elsewhere,” he said at the launch of the fifth annual Sudan Work Plan.
Humanitarian efforts in Sudan must not slacken or be reduced, stressed Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“More than ever, the international community and the governments concerned need to pull together to ensure that millions of people are afforded access to relief and recovery assistance,” he added. “Otherwise, we risk undermining achievements to date or jeopardizing critical events ahead.”
In the past four years, the UN and its partners have endeavoured to deliver food, water, shelter and other basic services to many parts of the country and have also built clinics and schools.
“But the scars of decades of war take a long time to heal,” the official said, underscoring that any gains made must be solidified.
With the conflict in Darfur on Sudan’s western flank entering its seventh year, some 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and millions more rely on life-saving aid. Insecurity thwarts people’s access to markets and clinics and also impedes aid workers’ attempts to reach the vulnerable.
Mr. Holmes also underscored the need to push ahead with the “search for lasting peace,” noting that “leaving Darfur in its present state is not an acceptable option for anyone.”
Also in Sudan, he said humanitarian aid is crucial to both save lives and support the fragile 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the separate long-running civil war between north and south.
In some regions of the country, more than half of the population still has no access to clean water, with even fewer able to access proper sanitation, the Coordinator said, adding that diarrhoea remains a leading cause of death in parts of Sudan’s east.