Sudan

UNICEF Representative sees opportunities in Southern Sudan and urgent need in Darfur

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ04-0942/Shehzad Noorani
A boy washes his face in the Krindig camp for displaced people on the outskirts of El Geneina, capital of West Darfur. UNICEF supports the rehabilitation and installation of handpumps and other water and sanitation assistance at the camp.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 16 March 2006 – UNICEF’s Representative in Sudan, Ted Chaiban, is in Washington, D.C. today, meeting with U.S. Government officials about the critical situation in Darfur and Southern Sudan. In particular, Mr. Chaiban is emphasizing the urgent need for greater awareness and funds to help millions of people – most of them children and women – affected by conflict throughout Sudan. After his meetings on Capitol Hill, he will head to London and Berlin for further discussions with governments and donors.

“Right now we’re facing an acute funding crisis for Darfur, and that needs to be attended to immediately,” Mr. Chaiban explained yesterday in an interview at UNICEF headquarters in New York. “But we also need the resources to try to help Sudan as a whole get on the road to recovery and development.”

Twenty years of conflict

One of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises continues to unfold in the Darfur region of Sudan. An estimated 3.5 million people, or roughly half of the region’s total pre-conflict population, have been affected by the crisis. Some 1.8 million have been displaced.

And while active civil conflict has subsided in Southern Sudan, that region still has some of the worst child rights indicators in the world. “One in every four children in Southern Sudan will die before the age of five,” said Mr Chaiban. He added that the maternal mortality rate of 1,700 per 100,000 live births in Southern Sudan is comparable to that of Afghanistan, and only 1 in 100 girls in the region finishes primary school.

“So there are enormous needs brought on by over twenty years of conflict and underdevelopment,” noted the UNICEF Representative.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/ HQ04-0947/Shehzad Noorani
A teacher from El Geneina leads third-grade students in a lesson at a UNICEF-supported school in the Krindig displacement camp, West Darfur.

Opportunity to make a difference

In January 2005, a comprehensive peace agreement between the north and south of Sudan officially put an end to what had been Africa’s longest civil war, lasting more than two decades. As peace takes hold, the improving social and political climate represents a window of opportunity to help the crisis-stricken region, said Mr. Chaiban.

“What’s exciting and interesting about working in Sudan now,” he said, “is that we have a unique opportunity to make a real difference for children in a way that’s sustainable.

“Because of the peace process between the north and south, we are able for the first time to try to vaccinate every child against measles; to try to get children in school that have never been in school before; to try to triple the number of water points that exist in Southern Sudan and in marginal areas of Sudan, and to start massive campaigns that can focus on HIV and child protection as issues that need to be dealt with systematically in society.”

Darfur funding shortages

Meanwhile, a political settlement of the Darfur crisis is still at least many months away, said Mr. Chaiban. UNICEF, other UN agencies and local partners in the region are currently providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable children and families with a focus on four key areas: water and environmental sanitation; health and nutrition; education; and child protection. UNICEF is also helping with emergency relief and shelter for those displaced by the violence.

Mr. Chaiban estimated that 2 million children in Darfur depend on UNICEF’s efforts to protect them from disease and conflict, and to provide opportunities for schooling. But as he set off for his round of visits to Western capitals, he warned that severe funding shortages are threatening UNICEF’s ability to continue providing this essential aid to Darfur’s children.

Tim Ledwith contributed to this story.


 

 

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15 March 2006:
UNICEF’s Representative in Sudan, Ted Chaiban, discusses the situation in Darfur and Southern Sudan.

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