Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to UNHCR

Briefing Notes, 1 December 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 December 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has received a $10 million emergency relief grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a variety of health, education, water and sanitation projects aimed at supporting the return and reintegration of hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people to devastated Southern Sudan.

The grant funds will cover immediate needs over a 28-month period in three main sectors basic health care, education, and water and sanitation in Western, Central and Eastern Equatoria states as well as the Upper Nile. A series of community-based reintegration projects focusing on each sector will benefit 210,000 Sudanese refugees coming home from neighbouring countries, as well as some 200,000 internally displaced people going back to their home villages. UNHCR will work with its UN and NGO partners as well as local communities in implementing the projects.

In a press release just issued this morning, High Commissioner António Guterres notes that these projects will help returnees and communities in South Sudan bridge the difficult gap between repatriation, reconstruction and long-term development. Equipping communities early on with basic essentials such as clean water and sanitation, schools and health care helps ensure that those who are going home can stay home.

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Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Since fighting broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur last year, more than 110,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad. They are scattered along a 600-km stretch of desert borderland under a scorching sun during the day and freezing temperatures during the night.

Access to these refugees in this inhospitable region is difficult. Staff of the UN refugee agency drive for days to locate them. Bombing in the border zone and cross-border raids by militia from Sudan put the refugees at risk and underscore the urgent need to move them to camps in the interior. In addition, the approach of the rainy season in May will make the sandy roads impassable. Aid workers are racing against time in an attempt bring emergency relief to these refugees.

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

South Sudan: Helping the Most VulnerablePlay video

South Sudan: Helping the Most Vulnerable

UNHCR comes to the assistance of older, disabled and sickly Sudanese refugees arriving in Yusuf Batil Camp.
Sudan: A Perilous RoutePlay video

Sudan: A Perilous Route

Kassala camp in eastern Sudan provides shelter to thousands of refugees from Eritrea. Many of them pass through the hands of ruthless and dangerous smugglers.
Sudan: Heading for a New HomePlay video

Sudan: Heading for a New Home

UNHCR is offering to help move hundreds of people from Sudan to newly independent South Sudan, where they will build new lives. Almost 250 families with ties to the south are waiting for a ride.