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SUDAN: UN raises humanitarian concerns ahead of referendum
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Nov 8, 2010 - 7:52:24 AM

SUDAN: UN raises humanitarian concerns ahead of referendum

Valerie Amos raised concerns about the Sudan referendum (file photo)
JUBA, 5 November 2010 (IRIN) - The January referendum on the future of Southern Sudan could create new humanitarian needs if violence breaks out, worsening an already precarious situation, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, warned.

“The coming weeks and months will define the fate of millions of Sudanese,” Valerie Amos, who was visiting Sudan for the first time since her appointment, told reporters in Juba on 5 November. Southern Sudan, she added, was at a critical juncture.

She expressed concern about the “uncertain fate” of Southerners living in Northern Sudan and northern Sudanese in the South, but noted that prospects were good for a reduction in the number of Southerners who would need food assistance next year. This was because of timely rains and a good harvest prediction this year.

However, she stressed, the already difficult humanitarian operating environment in the South had deteriorated, given the “worrying trend” of increased interference in humanitarian operations by Southern Sudanese state authorities and security forces.

Since February, there have been 118 reports of interference, harassment, and restriction of aid workers’ access to beneficiaries by state authorities. “The security of humanitarian staff is essential to carrying out humanitarian programmes, especially as the final stages of a highly political process are unfolding,” Amos said.

Georg Charpentier, who leads the UN’s humanitarian efforts in Sudan, said more than US$60 million had been committed by international donors for contingency planning, including prepositioning food and emergency supplies in the event of violence.

The UN, Amos added, was preparing six core emergency pipelines - in food and nutrition, non-food items, emergency shelter, emergency medical kits, seeds and tools, and water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. These would be placed in hubs in areas where there may be a threat of increased violence.

Meanwhile, concerns remain that preparations for the referendum are running behind schedule. Speaking on 30 October, Southern Sudan Referendum Committee (SSRC) Chairman Mohamed Khalil said the commission had about one-tenth of the time needed to complete the massive task.

According to the SSRC schedule, voter registration will conclude on 1 December and the final electoral register will be published on 4 January, days before voting on 9 January.

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