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UNHCR starts assisting displaced people in Sudan's Darfur region

UNHCR starts assisting displaced people in Sudan's Darfur region

The refugee agency has opened three offices in western Sudan's Darfur region to monitor the area's Chadian refugees and assist partner agencies in areas of protection, camp management and site planning for an estimated 1 million people displaced by fighting.
25 June 2004

EL GENEINA, Sudan, June 25 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has set up three offices in western Sudan's Darfur region to assist some of the estimated 1 million people uprooted by fighting between rebels and government-backed militia.

This week, UNHCR opened a regional office in El Geneina and satellite offices in Nyala (southern Darfur) and El Fasher (northern Darfur). The agency currently has seven staff in the area, but the number will grow to 30 in the coming weeks, providing assistance and advice in areas of protection, camp management and site planning.

UNHCR is already advising partner agencies in west Darfur on the registration of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps around El Geneina. It is also working to improve living conditions in the camps.

In Riyadh camp, where 70 percent of the population is headed by women and where there is a severe shortage of latrines, the refugee agency is advising Islamic Relief, which oversees the site, on improving water, sanitation and lighting services.

In the longer term, the UNHCR team will lay the groundwork for the eventual return of Sudanese refugees and IDPs to their home areas in Darfur if security conditions permit. The agency also plans to help more than 3,000 Chadian refugees to voluntarily repatriate from Darfur's Azerni camp and to assist an estimated 2,500 Chadian exiles in Ar Barouk camp.

To cover the cost of its new operations in Darfur, UNHCR on Wednesday sent a letter to donors asking for $3.8 million.

"While the capacity of relief agencies to undertake aid efforts in the El Geneina area has recently increased, the overall ability of humanitarian agencies to meet the enormous needs in western Sudan remains greatly constrained," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news briefing in Geneva Friday.

For Sudanese refugees who have fled into neighbouring Chad, UNHCR is continuing efforts to relocate them away from the border into eight inland camps in eastern Chad before the onset of seasonal rains. More than 110,200 refugees have so far been transferred in this operation.

Meanwhile, Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane is ending his five-day mission to Sudan, where he met with senior government officials in Khartoum and travelled to the south of the vast country for a meeting with Sudan People's Liberation Movement leader, Dr. John Garang, to discuss the potential return of more than 500,000 refugees who fled during the 21-year civil war in the region.