UNHCR announces launch of US$19.7 million appeal for Darfur operations
GENEVA, January 30 (UNHCR) - UNHCR on Tuesday launched an appeal for almost US$20 million to protect and assist tens of thousands of uprooted people in West Darfur, including displaced Sudanese and refugees from Chad.
"It is crucial for us to have this money as soon as possible in order not to have any gap in our assistance to people in need," said Mohamed Dayri, the Geneva-based head of UNHCR's Chad-Darfur desk.
The appeal, which calls for US$19.7 million from donors, noted that the security situation in Darfur remains extremely volatile. This was despite the signing in May of a peace agreement by the Sudanese government and rebel groups and the adoption in August of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a UN peace-keeping presence in the troubled region.
"With constant fighting between government troops and rebels opposed to the truce, as well as regular attacks by Arab militia on African tribes, there is no prospect of return for internally displaced people in Darfur, nor for the more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees hosted in eastern Chad," UNHCR spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.
There are presently an estimated two million internally displaced people (IDPs) in north, south and west Darfur, including 250,000 who have fled fighting in the past six months. In West Darfur alone, where UNHCR's teams are mainly based, there are an estimated 700,000 displaced.
There are also 20,000 Chadian refugees who have fled to Darfur following insecurity in border areas of their homeland over the past year. Eastern Chad hosts 230,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur in 12 UNHCR camps. They fled Arab militia raids as well as fighting between government troops and rebel forces in 2003 and 2004.
The appeal said the conflict and insecurity in Darfur were the main challenges for IDPs, refugees and the aid workers helping them. In recent months, 12 aid workers have been killed in Darfur.
The compounds and property of humanitarian organisations have also been targeted. "As a result, attacks or fear of attacks seriously reduces access for aid workers to the people the most in need," UNHCR's Pagonis noted.
Dayri also noted the difficult conditions. "Many roads are no-go for UN relief agencies because of the highly insecure environment, and the first victims of this horrendous situation are the displaced themselves," he said.
Despite the precarious security conditions in West Darfur, UNHCR remains committed to assisting the displaced and refugees around the five locations where it works.
Last year, the refugee agency conducted regular protection monitoring missions in those villages where access was possible. UNHCR teams have also been directly involved in the prevention of, and response to, sexual and gender-based violence.
UNHCR has also provided legal aid to several hundred individuals who required representation and counselling. It has also rehabilitated or built schools, sanitation facilities, water systems and shelter. In 2007, UNHCR plans to continue all of these crucial activities for IDPs.
The appeal also noted that UNHCR last year established two refugee camps in West Darfur to assist Chadian refugees. Um Shalaya camp, near Mornei, hosts 3,800 Chadian refugees, while the camp in Mukjar accommodates 200 refugees. Thousands of other Chadians decided to remain at the border, within close range of their farms and families in eastern Chad. UNHCR will continue to ensure protection and provide assistance to these refugees.
Insecurity in Chad also prompted some 15,000 Sudanese refugees to return to Darfur in 2005-06 and UNHCR has been helping them to ensure their return is sustainable.
Across the border in Chad, UNHCR and MSF-Holland last Sunday completed a joint emergency distribution of relief supplies to more than 11,000 people internally displaced in recent weeks by inter-communal violence in the south-east of the country. These people are located in and around the village of Gasire, north of Goz Beida, the main town in south-eastern Chad.
Most fled with nothing when some 25 villages were burned to the ground by armed Arab militia at the end of last year. Others fled anticipating violence in their villages. Sunday's distribution was made possible in large part by a major contribution from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The distribution coincided with a food distribution by the World Food Programme and partners.
The situation throughout south-east Chad remains precarious, and UNHCR is concerned about long-term stability in the region. Chadians still live in daily fear of attacks, while the region has few natural resources - particularly water and firewood. The additional pressure caused by tens of thousands of additional people poses a very real risk of depleting those resources.