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UN warns of humanitarian risks after ouster of aid groups in Sudan
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15:23, March 25, 2009

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United Nations humanitarian officials on Monday highlighted the cooperation of the Sudanese government with the world body to assess relief needs in war-torn Darfur, but warned of high risks ahead following the ouster of crucial aid groups.

While a "significant effort" is being made by the Sudanese 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.

A UN statement said a survey, jointly conducted by the UN and the Sudanese government earlier this month, discovered gaps in food aid, health and nutrition, non-food items, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene upon which some 4.7 million Darfur residents depend for survival.

Sudan decided to expel 13 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on March 4, 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.

Ameerah Haq, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, said concrete plans will have to be put in place if these gaps are to be bridged in a sustainable, long-term manner.

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

She said currently more than 850,000 people were being provided with water 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 the outbreak of diseases, Haq said.

While the Sudanese Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) are trying to address the gaps in health care, according to the survey, 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 the WFP finds new partners, Haq said.

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

The Sudanese government had accused the expelled NGOs of passing "false and fabricated information" to the ICC, a charge denied by the organizations.

Facing mounting pressure from the UN and Western countries for Khartoum to withdraw the expulsion decision, the Sudanese government has said it is "irreversible."

In accordance with an agreement reached between the UN and the Sudanese government, a joint team from the two sides made an assessment tour of the western Sudanese region from March 11 to 19.


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