Saturday, April 04, 2009

UN assesses impact of aid groups’ ouster on Southern Sudan

From UN News Centre, 03 April 2009:
UN assesses impact of aid groups’ ouster on Southern Sudan
A United Nations humanitarian team has been sent to Southern Sudan to assess the impact of Khartoum’s recent decision to expel 13 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and suspend three national NGOs.

The decision to bar the NGOs from operating in Sudan came immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on 4 March for President Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the mission to the so-called Three Areas of Sudan started work yesterday in the Blue Nile State to review programmes which were run by the expelled NGOs and to identify gaps in the aid effort.

Some of the banned NGOs were involved in significant recovery and development operations, which benefited populations in the Three Areas of Abyei, southern Kordofan State, and southern Blue Nile State.

In a bid to plug the holes left by the evicted NGOs in the country’s war-torn region of Darfur, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided six primary health centre kits containing essential drugs and equipment for outpatient treatment programmes in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state.

UNICEF has also stepped in to meet shortfalls in water, sanitation and hygiene in the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), where people are continuing to arrive.

In West Darfur, sanitation and hygiene promotion along with solid waste management have not resumed in any of the camps, according to UNICEF.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel on Darfur arrived in El Fasher today to meet with the leadership of the hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and senior Government officials in the region. The Panel, led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, intends to determine what more can be done to achieve peace, justice and reconciliation.

More than one year on from transferring peacekeeping operations to UNAMID from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), well over 12,000 of the 19,555 military personnel authorized by the Security Council are now in place across Darfur.

The hybrid force was set up to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.
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From UN News Centre, 24 March 2009:
Joint UN and Sudanese assessment of Darfur aid reveals critical gaps
United Nations humanitarian officials today commended the cooperation of Sudanese Government staff on an assessment of relief needs in war-torn Darfur, while they warned of high risks ahead following the ouster of crucial aid groups.

While a “significant effort” is being made by the Government, the UN and remaining aid groups to plug some of the immediate gaps, “these are band-aid solutions, if I can put it that way, not long-term solutions,” John Holmes, Emergency Relief Coordinator told reporters in New York.

For the long-term, the survey, conducted between 11 and 19 March, discovered gaps in food aid; health and nutrition; non-food items and shelter; and water, sanitation and hygiene upon which some 4.7 million Darfur residents depend for survival.

Sudan decided to eject 13 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provided much of that aid on 4 March, immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir. The operations of three national NGOs have also been suspended.

Concrete plans will have to be put in place if these gaps are to be bridged in a sustainable, long-term manner two months from now, Ameerah Haq, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, said in the country’s capital, Khartoum, as she released the results of the joint assessment.

Funding, plus adequate technical management, coordination and administration, previously provided by the experienced NGOs, must be replaced, Ms. Haq stressed.

In the area of water, she said that currently, over 850,000 people are still being served thanks to the quick engagement of the Government’s water department, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and national NGOs.

However, within four weeks existing funds for spare parts and fuel for water pumps and other necessities will be depleted, while sanitary facilities will need urgent maintenance to prevent disease outbreaks.

While the Sudanese Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) are trying to address the gaps in health care, according to the assessment, salaries and staff are in place only until the end of April and up to 650,000 people currently do not have access to full health care.

The survey showed that food needs have been covered for March and April for about 1.1 million people, thanks to a one-time distribution by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) through local food committees. However, by the beginning of May, just as the gap between harvest times approaches, further distributions will not be made unless WFP finds new partners, Ms. Haq said.

On housing, Ms. Haq said that about 692,400 people waiting for shelter materials before the rains begin will not receive them unless the UN Joint Logistics Centre finds partners to carry out the distributions and gains access to existing distribution lists.

In all sectors, she said, expertise in technical assessments, planning, programme design and implementation, monitoring and evaluation has been lost, and the quality of relief, even if taken over by national NGOs, could suffer.

Administrative hurdles, such as the lack of travel permits and technical agreements, also hinder the work of NGOs as well as line ministries in their work, she said, although she welcomed the Government’s commitment to fast track the technical agreements of all remaining NGOs.

Since the decision to oust the NGOs, besides trying to fill aid gaps, the UN has continued to advocate for a reversal of the expulsions, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been in close contact with Arab and African leaders and members of the Security Council.

An estimated 300,000 people have died and another 3 million have been displaced in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003.