The cessation of hostilities provides an opportunity to improve the lives of women and children and make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in the desperately poor and underdeveloped south. Nascent governing structures have begun to emerge; hundreds of thousands of people have returned to their homes; children’s and women’s rights are included in the south’s new draft constitution; and such important health services as antenatal care and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS have been expanded.
Urgency persists in Darfur
As new commitments arrived in 2005 to help with recovery and reconstruction countrywide (in April 2005 donors pledged $4.5 billion), relief efforts in Darfur were expanded. UNICEF provided primary health care to 2 million people and worked with partners to supply camps with safe water and basic sanitation. Millions of children were immunized against measles and polio, interrupting wild poliovirus transmission after a major outbreak in 2004.
Among the population reached by humanitarian aid, crude mortality rates – perhaps the best indicator of a successful humanitarian operation – fell from 2/10,000 in 2004 to 0.8/10,000 in 2005. The wasting rate fell from 21.8 per cent in 2004 to 11.9 per cent in 2005. And over 380,000 children were enrolled in school in 2005, 42 per cent of them girls.
Nonetheless, at year’s end the situation remained precarious. About 2 million people were still displaced, including 200,000 Sudanese living in Chad near an increasingly unstable border; more than 3 million people in Darfur, including 1.4 million children, still depended on international aid for survival. And, as the year ended, mounting insecurity, enormous logistical constraints and a punishing environment left another 1.5 million children in Darfur beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance, exposed to undernutrition, illness and violence.
By early 2006, UNICEF’s relief work in Darfur faced an acute funding shortage, with funds on hand to provide only a few months of services. Encouraged by concrete results and fully aware of their potential reversal, UNICEF’s emergency funding request for Sudan in 2006 is $331 million – a sum that reflects the urgency of the goals: to continue life-saving assistance to the people of Darfur and to strengthen and extend relief and recovery in the south.