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Darfur Relief Efforts Near Collapse

Darfur Relief Efforts Near Collapse Due To Fading International Support: UN Official

New York, Apr 20 2006 7:00PM

The disastrous combination of a worsening humanitarian situation, Government obstruction, rebel violence and weakened support of the international community has left relief operations in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region on the verge of breakdown, placing millions of people at risk, the top United Nations humanitarian official told the Security Council today.

“I think it’s a matter of weeks or months that we will have a collapse in many of our operations,” Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters after his presentation to the Council on the crises in Darfur, northern Uganda and Chad, which followed a nine-day mission to those African countries.

“As I told the Security Council today, I don’t think the world has understood how bad it has become of late,” Mr. Egeland added, saying that 200,000 people were displaced in the last three or four months alone, on top of the 1.6 million already displaced. More than 3 million people are in need of daily humanitarian assistance, he said, with 210,000 of those requiring food urgently.

Despite the growing need, he said that the world was turning its back on Darfur, with only the United Kingdom giving more this year than last, many donors not giving at all and half the money available in 2006 that there was last year.

“Maybe this world in 2006 is only able to run sprints and not marathons,” Mr. Egeland surmised. “Because this is a marathon. In 2005, we had more diplomatic support than we’ve had in 2006, we had more funding, [and] we had more pressure on the parties than we’ve had this year.”

More pressure needed to be put on both the Government and the rebel movements to observe the ceasefire and reach a peace agreement, he urged. “We feel too much alone as humanitarian workers in Darfur.”

Asked by reporters what humanitarian workers needed, he said: “We need security that we do not have; we need a Government that enables us to work and doesn’t place obstacles before our work; we need guerrillas which are not specializing in hijacking relief trucks and fighting each other and displacing new people, as happened in the last few weeks. And we need funding.”

Speaking to reporters after Mr. Egeland’s comments, the Council President for April, Ambassador Wang Guangya of China, said there were many different factors for the lag in international support for Darfur, but more such support should be coming.

For a real improvement in the situation, he said, the cooperation of all parties was needed. “You need to have the trust and confidence between all players, particularly between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan.”

In northern Uganda, where a 20-year-long rebellion by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has uprooted almost 2 million civilians amid accusations of grave human rights violations by the rebels, Mr. Egeland said the situation was as bad as when he gave his first briefing on the subject to the Council two years ago, but he saw hope for the first time in a long time because the Government is now working with the humanitarian community on a concrete action plan to improve conditions.

But 1.7 million people are still in camps, and as late as yesterday children were being abducted by the LRA and terrorized into becoming child soldiers.

“Northern Uganda has to change in this year 2006,” Mr. Egeland said. “We cannot allow it to continue as it is.”

Noting the positive developments, he said he told the Council that: “To change things on paper is one thing. Another thing is to really change things on the ground and that has not happened yet.”


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