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Worsening Darfur Crisis Threatens Entire Region

Worsening Darfur Crisis Threatens Entire Region, UN Refugee Agency Chief Warns

New York, Sep 8 2006 10:00AM

The United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees today warned that the worsening situation in Sudan's Darfur region threatens to spark another round of massive displacement that could destabilize the entire region and result in a major catastrophe.

“Humanitarian agencies are already struggling to cope with the enormous needs of some 2 million internally displaced people inside Darfur, plus more than 200,000 refugees in 12 UNHCR-run camps across the border in Chad,” Mr. Guterres said in Geneva. “Deteriorating security has left us unable to provide even minimal help across wide areas of Darfur, and resources in neighbouring Chad have been stretched to the limit. An already bad situation is worsening by the day.

He cited the lack of security and access as well as continuing uncertainty over the deployment to Darfur of a UN peacekeeping force that was recently approved by the UN Security Council. The Khartoum Government has voiced opposition to the UN deployment. In addition, thousands of Sudanese troops have been deployed to Darfur in recent weeks, prompting fears of a major military offensive that could lead to yet more displacement.

“Millions of people are already at grave risk,” the High Commissioner said. “Hundreds are still dying amid ongoing violence, and thousands are still being forcibly displaced. Urgent international action is needed to put pressure on the parties to the conflict and to convince everyone involved on the ground to let humanitarian agenΰies safely carry out their work.

He warned that if the situation does not improve, “we're heading for a major catastrophe.”

UNHCR has six offices and nearly 100 staff in South and West Darfur to carry out protection monitoring activities. Security in many parts of Darfur has steadily deteriorated since last December.

A dozen aid workers have been killed since May, and humanitarian convoys are repeatedly attacked and vehicles stolen. Offices and compounds have also been attacked, and staff are only able to travel by helicopter to reach some areas.

Mr. Guterres said the worsening situation in Darfur could also have dire consequences for the rest of the region. Neighbouring Chad, where UNHCR camps currently hold more than 200,000 Darfur refugees, is already grappling with cross-border insecurity that has displaced some 50,000 Chadians and sent about 15,000 of them fleeing into Darfur.

The Darfur crisis also has the potential to exacerbate continuing instability in the northern Central African Republic, UNHCR warned. Some 46,000 Central African refugees are housed in three of the agency’s camps in southern Chad.

“Chad has been extremely generous in helping refugees, but it's now close to the breaking point,” Mr. Guterres cautioned. “It is hard to comprehend the enormity of the crisis we would face if there is additional large-scale displacement in Darfur. Even without the violence and insecurity, humanitarian operations in this remote andᾠresource-poor region are extremely difficult.


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