Top UN relief official highlights persistent crises in Sudan and Chad

Top UN relief official highlights persistent crises in Sudan and Chad

Children displaced by LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State, Sudan
A deteriorating food crisis in southern Sudan could turn catastrophic unless the humanitarian community steps up contributions to enable agencies to boost their relief efforts in the region, the top United Nations relief official said today.

“We face a deteriorating humanitarian situation [in southern Sudan] this year – widespread food insecurity with 40 per cent of the population either severely or moderately food insecure,” said John Holmes, who is Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

The problem is mainly attributable to inadequate rainfall over several seasons and exacerbated by recent ethnic conflicts that have claimed the lives of 700 people and displaced an estimated 90,000 others. Attacks by insurgents of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), especially in Western Equatoria state, have complicated the humanitarian crisis, Mr. Holmes told reporters in New York following his trip to Sudan and Chad last month.

He noted that only 26 per cent of the $530 million requested by humanitarian agencies for southern Sudan has been funded.

On Darfur, Mr. Holmes noted that not much has changed on the humanitarian front because continuing peace efforts have not borne fruit and fighting in several parts of the region continue to cause fresh displacement of populations. Rampant banditry and lack of access to some affected populations continued to hinder humanitarian work in Darfur, Mr. Holmes said.

He said the humanitarian community in Darfur would make efforts to shift focus from general aid distribution to striving to empower people to support themselves through investing in programmes such as agriculture and education.

Turning to the situation in Chad, Mr. Holmes highlighted the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the western part of the country, where the failure of rainfall last year has spawned a severe food crisis with high levels of malnutrition and loss of livestock. He said he has brought the situation there to the attention of donors and humanitarian agencies in an effort ensure that those affected received the help they need.

Mr. Holmes said there had been no major change in the situation in eastern Chad where more than 260,000 refugees from Darfur have sought safety and 171,000 Chadians remain internally displaced due to recent conflicts. There are also an estimated 57,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in southern Chad.

Mr. Holmes briefed the Security Council on his mission to Chad and Sudan yesterday, telling the 15-member body that the precarious humanitarian situation in Sudan was unlikely to decrease in the near future.

“Indeed it could even increase further in the south if the rains this year are poor again and political uncertainty fuels further violence. In Darfur, to state the obvious, the only real solution to challenges is a proper ceasefire and a durable political settlement,” Mr. Holmes said.

“In both places, in parallel to humanitarian relief, there is an urgent need to empower people to take more control of their own lives and livelihoods and begin to build towards early recovery as soon as the security and political situation allow,” he added.