UN refugee agency seeks US$40 million for Darfur operations
GENEVA, April 4 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Friday formally issued an appeal for US$40.3 million to provide protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in Sudan's troubled Darfur region this year.
"The funds will be used to help some 2.5 million displaced Darfurians and returnees as well as 47,500 refugees from Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) who have fled inter-ethnic clashes and conflict in their own countries," UNHCR's chief spokesman, Ron Redmond, told journalists in Geneva, where the refugee agency has its headquarters.
UNHCR's Africa Bureau Director Marjon Kamara said the challenges in Darfur have never been greater, with a pervasive conflict spreading across the region displacing more civilians and creating a very insecure environment for humanitarian workers. Preventing sexual and gender-based violence also remains a key challenge.
Redmond said UNHCR's Darfur operations this year "will focus on protection activities, including monitoring the well-being of refugees, displaced people and returnees in accessible villages; strengthening our role in camp management and coordination issues; and providing community-based rehabilitation programmes in rural areas along with other partners and UN agencies."
The appeal states that UNHCR 's main goal remains to assist the Sudanese government in fulfilling its responsibility to deliver an effective and coordinated humanitarian response to the needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Darfur.
UNHCR's primary area of operation until now has been in West Darfur, bordering Chad. This year, however, UNHCR plans to extend its operational presence to North and South Darfur. "We have already opened a field office in El Fasher, North Darfur, where the United Nations Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, is based. Just this week, additional staff have been redeployed to Nyala in South Darfur," Redmond noted.
The US$40.3 million appeal marks a sizeable increase over UNHCR's 2007 budgetary requirements of US$19.7 million, reflecting the expansion of UNHCR's presence in Darfur and its increased role in camp management and coordination issues within the UN framework of coordination. UNHCR currently has 31 international and 74 national staff based in Darfur.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has started relocating refugees from the Central African Republic away from Um Dukhun, a town in West Darfur near the junction of the borders of Chad, Sudan and CAR. The operation, which began last week, will move the CAR refugees to a camp further inland in Mukjar, West Darfur.
A first group of 42 refugees was transferred last week by UNHCR truck to Mukjar camp, some 125 kilometres north of Um Dukhun. On Friday, UNHCR staff were travelling to Um Dukhun with representatives from the Commissioner for Refugees, Sudan's national refugee body, to assess the number of people willing to move to Mukjar.
The CAR refugees are part of a group of 2,500 people who arrived in Um Dukhun at the end of 2006, fleeing generalized violence and insecurity in northern CAR. The camp in Mukjar already hosts some 500 Chadian refugees who fled their country in 2006 because of insecurity and inter-ethnic violence.
Although refugees indicated to UNHCR that they wish to go to Mukjar camp, they are concerned about moving from a bustling border town - Um Dukhun has an estimated population of some 100,000 persons - to a rural area. UNHCR negotiated with the local authorities for arable land to be made available as the CAR refugees express their desire to farm. Both the local population and the Chadian refugees in Mukjar have welcomed the CAR refugees.