High Commissioner's remarks at the Ministerial-level Pledging Event to Support the Humanitarian Response in Sudan and the Region
Thank you Dominique, and greetings from Nairobi,
I can only echo Martin’s description of the extremely dire situation inside Sudan. Last night, I spoke with one of my Deputies, Raouf Mazou, who is currently in Sudan together with our team of 45 international and more than 200 national staff. In addition to those newly displaced, and together with UN and NGO partners, they continue to support the more than 1 million refugees from other countries that were hosted in Sudan prior to the conflict. We make progress but access continues to be difficult and many are left without support.
Close to 2 million people are now displaced inside Sudan. Looting, killing, and sexual violence are rife, as I heard myself from refugees crossing into Egypt when I visited the Sudanese border a few weeks ago.
This must stop.
Because on top of the tragedy unfolding in Sudan, the conflict risks spilling over Sudan’s borders, with dramatic consequences across the region and beyond.
About half a million people have already fled the country.
We have recorded 365,000 refugees since the onset of this conflict, with Egypt and Chad hosting the majority, but people are also fleeing to other neighbouring countries. In addition, many who had sought refuge in Sudan prior to the conflict are now being forced to return home in adverse conditions. In particular South Sudanese – some 113,000 so far are going back to their country of origin with absolutely nothing. They are returning to places that are not ready to receive them, putting an additional strain on impoverished communities. These movements risk further destabilizing a country – South Sudan - that is itself trying to emerge from the devastating impact of conflict.
The security vacuum created by this violence provides fertile breeding ground for those who traffic in humans and weapons. Both the Presidents of Egypt and of the Central African Republic in recent days mentioned their concerns to me in this regard. And I am sure that the rest of Sudan’s neighbours are equally worried. Many have also expressed concern, as we heard, that the appalling violence in Darfur could spill over into Chad.
UNHCR is working with governments of all neighbouring countries, helping them coordinate refugee responses and supporting host communities.
A few actions are urgent.
First – let me join others who said the same: the fighting must stop. I welcome all efforts being made in this respect. They must continue and be supported on a no regrets basis not only for the sake of Sudan, but to prevent further instability in the region and beyond. The current ceasefire must hold.
Second – I appreciate the pressure on neighbours. I appreciate, as I said, the security concerns. But at the same time, I appeal to neighbouring countries: please continue to keep your borders open. Not just to uphold your legal obligations, but to save lives. Please – apply humanity in your approach.
Third – as Martin just said, we need more funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan inside Sudan and for the Regional Refugee Response Plan coordinated by UNHCR with 140 partners in the neighbouring countries. People are fleeing to countries that were already stretched and fragile; four of which had already underfunded Humanitarian Response Plans of their own. They need your support to address those pre-existing humanitarian and development needs, as well as much – much – more to help those who have fled from Sudan since the 15th of April, and who may not stay in neighbouring countries if help wanes or is insufficient.
I also appeal to the World Bank and other financial institutions to reinforce international support through special instruments dedicated to refugees and communities hosting them.
We are possibly only days away from the rainy season which will further exacerbate the suffering of the hundreds of thousands who have fled, and limit further our logistical reach in rural and remote areas, for example, in eastern Chad and in the Central African Republic. I saw for myself the dire state in which many Sudanese arrive in Egypt – dehydrated, exhausted, many in desperate need of medical assistance. The needs of refugees are huge and set to worsen and so are those, as I have also seen in Egypt, of the communities hosting them.
But to date, the Refugee Response Plan is just 15 per cent funded. The lack of funds received so far is deeply distressing and has grave consequences on people’s lives. Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow – fittingly – is World Refugee Day, so please give generously and give urgently. So many lives depend on it.