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Sudan: Looming humanitarian catastrophe, warns UN

UN official warns Security Council of looming humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan

The situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region has deteriorated severely over the past six months, the top United Nations refugee official told the UN Security Council today, warning of calamity there and in other parts of the country unless bold measures are taken soon.

“Today, violence and impunity – never completely in check – are again everyday occurrences in Darfur. Humanitarian workers are regularly cut off from the displaced and those they are trying to help,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said in his address to the 15-member body.

He said the violence was spilling over the border into Chad, where the UNHCR cares for many of the 200,000 Sudanese refugees, and appealed to the Council to pressure all the parties in Darfur to agree on a peace deal, a necessary precondition for reconciliation there.

In Southern Sudan, where a peace agreement was signed a year ago, he said the situation remains fragile as tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people start returning to a region without infrastructure.

“Massive economic and political support to the transition is necessary now – not when everything is in place and all the rules of conditionality are met. By then it could be too late,” he warned.

Mr. Guterres told the Security Council that he also believed the situation in Eastern Sudan, which has been largely out of the spotlight, was deteriorating steadily due partly to migration away from troubles in neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In summing up the Sudan situation in regard to refugees, he said that, during the aftermath of crises – the period when refugees return home – the lack of a smooth transition from relief to development “ranks as one of the international community’s most consistent failures.”

For that reason, he applauded the General Assembly’s recent decision to create a Peacebuilding Commission, which was supported by both Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the 2005 World Summit, and which would coordinate the development of countries emerging from conflict.

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