September 2006

For the year 2005 we requested the international community about 1.8 billion dollar to enable us to carry out a program of humanitarian assistance for the people of Sudan. About half of this was meant for Darfur, where about three million refugees, displaced people and other people affected by the war, were in dire need of help. The peace talks had not yet delivered any result. The other half was meant for Southern Sudan. Early 2005 the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been signed, which had ended a decades long war in the South, but humanitarian assistance would still be necessary. It would take at least a year before reconstruction activities in Southern Sudan could start. Several millions of Southern Sudanese were either refugees in camps across the border in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, or had sought a place to live elsewhere in Sudan, for instance around Khartoum. These people would still need basic assistance, to survive where they had sought refuge, or in order to return to their places of origin and to start a new life. All of them were still in need of food, water, health care, some material to cover themselves against the rain, the wind, the sun or the cold (plastic cover of their huts; blankets) and possibly some primary education. About half of the assistance required consisted of food.

We received two third of what was required, about 1.2 billion dollar. This meant that we had to curtail some activities. For instance, assistance to returning displaced people was hardly possible last year. But we were still able to help millions of people and to improve their living conditions. On the list of the presently largest relief operations in the world Darfur is number one and Southern Sudan number two.

Last year I described how important the aid to Darfur has been. (see weblog nr 2). In 2005 the malnutrition and mortality figures decreased drastically. Aid has saved the life of tens of thousands of people.

This was not only due to the financial resources which had been made available, but also to the fact that about a thousand mostly young people from other countries had come as aid workers. Many worked in the framework of the various UN agencies, such as the Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator (OCHA), the World Food Program (WFP) and UNICEF. Many others worked for international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s). In addition to them about ten thousand Sudanese aid workers are contributing to a smooth running of these operations. We should be very grateful that so many people from all over the world are willing to devote their time and energy to assist their fellow men and women, who have fallen victim to violence, ethnic cleansing, killing and rape. Without these aid workers the international community, including the United Nations, would not have been able to make the assistance operational. We would not have been able to spend the aid resources. Many more people would have died.

The international aid workers are working in Darfur in pretty harsh conditions. They run the risk of not only being harassed by the Sudanese authorities – which is increasingly the case – but also of being attacked by bandits and warlords. The Sudanese aid workers are living even more dangerously. For them it may be a job, but it is a risky one. Many of them have been detained by National Security. Quite a few have been attacked by the people they tried to help, who suspect that they are government spies. Others have been taken prisoner by rebel movements and bandits. In the last two years about two dozen aid workers lost their life.

The assistance provided for the South has been spent on more issues than aid to people in camps. Close to 90.000 metric tons of food aid were provided to 1.3 million people throughout South Sudan. Nearly 400 anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines and more than 16.000 unexploded objects were collected and destroyed, amongst others along 265 km roads. The reopening of these roads made humanitarian and commercial traffic possible. This was further facilitated by the construction of nearly 900 km roads and the rehabilitation of seven airfields. About 800 new water points were established. More than 750 schools were rehabilitated and about 4500 teachers were trained. Several millions of children were reached through the vaccination and immunization rounds, amongst others against measles and polio.

It is not enough. Several times I have written about the mass poverty which is still a common feature throughout Southern Sudan (see weblog nr 32). Humanitarian assistance cannot put an end to this poverty. It can only provide temporary relief. A more lasting contribution to poverty reduction requires reconstruction and development programs. As I wrote earlier this year (see weblog nr 17) these have hardly started.

A first step towards reconstruction consists of a reorientation of the program of humanitarian assistance. The food aid should be targeted to the most vulnerable people only. It should be complemented by food for work activities (payment of salaries of, for instance, road reconstruction workers but also teachers in the form of food). This should be combined by food security programs: delivery of seeds and tools, soil improvement, a more balanced relation between land use by cattle and for farming. We will also have to do much more to assist displaced persons and refugees to return home. In 2005 more than half a million returned, but nearly all of them spontaneously and without assistance. Many of them had been away from their homes for, on average, a period of two decades. Their reintegration in their villages of origin is difficult, because the countryside is vulnerable. There is often not much water; the land has been used by others; there are not enough schools and health centers. So, many returnees want to settle in the towns. However, these too can hardly absorb more people. Power, water supply, sanitary services, schools and hospitals are deficient. So are employment opportunities. Investments are lagging behind. Unemployment breeds crime. For 2006, in particular after the end of the rainy season, we expect a large increase in the number of returnees. They, as well as the people who had stayed behind in the towns and villages of Southern Sudan, need help.

To cover the humanitarian needs for this year, 2006, in both Darfur and Southern Sudan we have presented an aid program to the international community amounting to 1.6 billion dollar. So far we have received 1.1 billion. It means that we had to cut assistance again. First victim seems to be Southern Sudan. The international community is focusing more on Darfur than on the South, which means that many activities had to be postponed. But also in Darfur we had a near catastrophe, when the World Food Program decided to cut the food ratio’s in the camps. Cuts in the rations of cereals, sugar and cooking oil took place were effected in the same period that the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed. Much unrest was the result. Due to some new aid commitments the cuts could partially be reversed, but the future of the humanitarian assistance is very uncertain.

The costs are enormous indeed. And the same donor countries do also have to foot the bill for the UN peacekeeping operation in Sudan. Presently UNMIS, with 10.000 military, costs another one billion dollar per annum. If we are going to deploy in Darfur as well, as has been stipulated in resolutions of the Security Council, this will increase to 2.7 billion dollar annually. This demand is competing with new UN peace keeping operations, such as the one foreseen in Lebanon, and with funds required to address the consequences of natural disasters, such as the Tsunami and the hurricane Katrina. We have already seen the first signs of donor fatigue. Presently we are preparing the appeal for a program of humanitarian assistance for 2007. We keep our fingers crossed. The future of Sudan is uncertain, in many respects.