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New Zealand responds to emergency in Sudan

3 June 2004

New Zealand responds to emergency in Sudan

New Zealand is contributing $2 million to help deal with what United Nation’s officials are calling one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, Aid Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

Darfur, Western Sudan is suffering from repeated attacks by militia, burning of villages, widespread looting and systematic destruction of livelihoods, which have left more than one million displaced people destitute. In addition 110,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad. The crisis is compounded by several years of drought.

Unless immediate support is provided, the UN predicts a real possibility of a humanitarian catastrophe in Dafur and Chad with major implications for peace and security in the region and the prospect of tens of thousands of deaths.

New Zealand is contributing $1 million to the World Food Programme for immediate food aid needs in Darfur and $1 million for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operations in Sudan and neighbouring countries.

"People are too frightened to return to their farms and will miss the planting season," Marian Hobbs said. "That means they're going to require food and other assistance for at least 18 months. The rainy season is about to start and that’s going to make access even harder. So it's critical that WFP is resourced now to deliver food to areas that will become cut off.

"UNHCR has been relocating the refugees, most of whom are women and children, away from the border areas where they are at risk from attack. Keeping people alive is the most immediate priority. However, conditions for a safe and early return to normal life need to be created at the same time."

A special challenge for UNHCR is coordinating the voluntary repatriation and reintegration of refugees back to South Sudan made possible by a recent ceasefire, at the same time as responding to the emergency in the west.

"New Zealand is keen to support this crucial humanitarian work and has provided an untagged contribution to UNHCR so the funds can be applied where the need is greatest," Marian Hobbs said.

ENDS

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