High Commissioner warns of worsening Darfur crisis
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warns in a press release that the worsening situation in Sudan's Darfur region threatens to spark another round of massive displacement that could destabilize the entire region. Mr. Guterres notes that 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. But 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. He says an already bad situation is worsening by the day, citing the lack of security and access as well as continuing uncertainty over the deployment to Darfur of a U.N. peacekeeping force approved by the Security Council but opposed by the Khartoum government. 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.
Mr. Guterres notes that millions of people are already at grave risk and 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 agencies safely carry out their work. Lives depend on this, he said, and if things don't improve, we're heading for a major catastrophe.
The worsening situation in Darfur could also have dire consequences for the rest of the region, the High Commissioner says. Neighbouring Chad, where a dozen, remote UNHCR camps currently hold more than 200,000 Darfur refugees in an extremely hostile environment, 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. Some 46,000 Central African refugees are housed in three UNHCR camps in southern Chad. It would almost certainly affect UNHCR's ongoing repatriation of thousands of Sudanese refugees and displaced back to their homes in Southern Sudan - at the very least forcing a diversion of staff and resources from the south.