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Sudan: Darfur Relief To Cost $825 Million In 2008

Sudan: Darfur relief to cost $825 million in 2008 - UN

The costs of humanitarian operations in Darfur during 2008 are estimated at US$825 million, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, said in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

The Sudan Work Plan, to be launched on 11 December, includes UN and some non-governmental organisations' activities and goes beyond humanitarian relief to embrace "early recovery" and development projects.

For the whole country, the 2008 Sudan Work Plan will come with a US$2.2 billion price tag. The humanitarian component for the appeal for 2007 was $1.8 billion, of which, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), one billion US$ has been received for projects across the country.

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur should only return to their homes willingly and under safe conditions, Holmes said.

"We do want to see people return to their places of origin and resume their normal lives as early as possible," Holmes said on 2 December in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, at the end of a three-day visit to the country. "But returns should only take place where they are genuinely voluntary."

His comments come in the wake of a turbulent few weeks in the region, with government troops in November being accused of attempting to force IDPs to leave Otash camp in South Darfur. Shortly after the Otash incident, the Wali, or governor, of South Darfur State, Ali Mahmoud Mohammed, expelled the regional head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Wael Al-Haj Ibrahim; the reasons for his expulsion remain unclear, but Holmes hinted that it was related to his objections to the Otash episode.

Holmes said the UN was also carefully monitoring the situation in South Darfur's Kalma camp, following an announcement by state authorities that camp residents they would be disarmed to reduce levels of crime in the camp. He said during his visit to South Darfur, he had discussed the issue of safe disarmament and weapons collection with the Wali and Gen Martin Luther Agwai, head of the African Union Mission in Sudan.

The UN and the government have been at odds over the state of security in the region, with government officials adamant that the area is becoming increasingly stable, while the UN and several NGOs feeling the security situation is declining.

Holmes acknowledged that the security situation in Darfur was very mixed, with the situation improving in some areas, while others continued to experience bouts of violence.

"When we asked the IDPs whether it's safe to return - including some of those I met yesterday - most of them said no; this is a very important part of the [security] discussion," he said.

He added that the unpredictable security situation had made it increasingly difficult for the humanitarian operation in Darfur - the largest in the world, according to OCHA - to carry out its work.

Over the course of 2007, 128 vehicles belonging to the UN and NGOs operating in Darfur have been hijacked - 13 in November alone - and 74 humanitarian convoys have been attacked in one way or another. Holmes stressed that the UN did not blame the government for the attacks, but hoped that the UN could depend on its cooperation to bring them to an end.



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