UN humanitarian chief concerned about long-term Darfur aid
KALMA CAMP, Sudan (AFP) — The top UN humanitarian official voiced concern on Tuesday about how long the world could fund relief efforts in Sudan's Darfur region, where aid workers are attacked almost daily after nearly six years of war.
John Holmes, the UN emergency relief coordinator, made the remarks on his third visit to Darfur while visiting Kalma Camp, which houses around 100,000 of the 2.7 million people displaced by the fighting in the western Sudanese region.
The consequences of an uprising by ethnic rebels against the Sudanese government in February 2003 and the ensuing repression by the standing army and Arab militias sparked the world's biggest humanitarian relief effort.
"I think in some ways it has continued to deteriorate in the sense that there's still displacement going on, there's still violence. I think it's not, in many cases, an emergency," Holmes told reporters.
"People are reasonably well settled in these camps. Unfortunately that's a problem in itself but people are not dying of starvation."
"The problem is that people have been in camps four or five years now, how do you tackle that problem... how long can we go on like this?" he said.
On Thursday, the United Nations launched a formal appeal for 1.56 billion dollars from donors to bankroll aid work in Sudan that is expected to cost a total of 2.2 billion dollars in 2009.
"This is a billion-dollar operation to help two-thirds of the population of Darfur. We need to find some solutions quickly so that we don't have to go on doing this indefinitely," said Holmes.
Asked how long he felt the international community could continue to fund the operation, Holmes said: "You can't put a timescale on it.
"It depends on the generosity of the donors, which has been there so far. But that generosity has its limits.
"I'm not saying there's a particular threat at this moment, but it's a question we ask ourselves constantly -- how long can we go on doing this?"
"Obviously the thing is to find a solution, a negotiated solution which will allow people to go home and start their lives normally... the sooner it can happen the better.
He said that non-governmental organisations trying to work in Darfur were coming under near daily attack from "thieves and bandits."
"People are surviving despite all the difficulties and despite the violence but the more violence there is, the harder the access. It's difficult to get around in Darfur... NGOs, the agencies are subject to attacks almost every day."
According to the United Nations, there were nearly 2.7 million people internally displaced by October 2008 as a result of the conflict in Darfur, up from 2.5 million in July.
So far this year, 11 humanitarian workers have been killed while 144 humanitarian premises have been attacked or broken during the first nine months of 2008, according to UN statistics.