KHARTOUM [ ABN NEWS ] — United Nations Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy Abdullah al Matouq and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres returned from a visit to Sudan’s White Nile State, where more than 50,000 South Sudanese refugees currently reside in 4 sites. They visited the Joda border crossing through which the majority of the South Sudanese refugees have arrived in White Nile State and went to Al Alagaya refugee site, which hosts over 8,000 refugees. There they saw firsthand the living conditions of refugees who are fleeing insecurity and violence in South Sudan and seeking safety in Sudan.
“The refugees who have fled to Sudan from South Sudan are in an utterly desperate situation. They have lost their homes, their livelihoods and their loved ones,” said Mr. Guterres. “We are extremely grateful to the Government of Sudan and its people for the hospitality they continue to extend to South Sudanese refugees. We need to collectively build on these efforts and ensure that they can be sustained in order to not only support the refugee response but also mitigate the impact this large influx has had on Sudanese host communities. I am therefore appealing to the donor community for further financial support to ensure we have the means to respond to the continued influx from South Sudan,” he said.
In the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Dr. al Matouq and Mr Guterres met with H.E. the President of the Republic Field Marshall Omar al Bashir and Government Ministers to discuss ways in which the international humanitarian community can strengthen its partnerships with the Government to improve cooperation on humanitarian assistance across Sudan, including for the South Sudan refugee crisis.
“The humanitarian challenges in Sudan are immense,” said Dr. al Matouq. “The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan has risen by 800,000 since the start of 2014 (as of July 2014). This is in addition to some 6.1 million people who required humanitarian assistance at the beginning of 2014. We all must ensure that Sudan remains in the mind of those who can help make a difference,” he said.
Dr. al Matouq and Mr. Guterres thanked the Government of Sudan for their part in assisting refugees from South Sudan, but expressed concern that as conflict continues in South Sudan the number of people fleeing to Sudan will likely grow much higher. As such, Mr. Guterres emphasized the need for adequate planning for the increased numbers, particularly by allocating additional land for refugee sites and ensuring proper site planning. In his meetings, Guterres also highlighted the need for South Sudanese to be afforded a status grounded in a recognized legal framework that would give effect to the expressed Government position that South Sudanese are brothers and sisters and which would accord access to rights and adequate assistance in Sudan. For this registration and documentation would be key and UNHCR stands ready to support the Government of Sudan. He added that in addition to the new influx of refugees, UNHCR will continue to work with the Government and the international community to find solutions for the estimated 90,000 refugees in East Sudan living in a protracted situation, many of whom have been in Sudan for decades. He also congratulated the Government of Sudan for its leadership in hosting the African Union Regional Conference on Trafficking and Smuggling and its resolute efforts to combat this phenomenon in Sudan.
“I have been encouraged by the prospect of close cooperation between the Government, the UN, and humanitarian agencies on the ground… Humanitarian agencies operating in Sudan are here to support the Government of Sudan assist people in urgent need of help. Removing restrictions on access for humanitarian workers will permit an expansion of current efforts to support the Government’s response to those in need,” said al Matouq. In this regard, Dr. al Matouq and Mr. Guterres expressed their satisfaction at the commitment received from the Sudanese authorities to remove all obstacles for humanitarian organizations to work in Sudan. “These reassurances are extremely important to enhance donor confidence which we desperately need in a constrained global funding environment. It is only through continuous dialogue and mutual understanding between the Government of Sudan and the international community working in Sudan that it will be possible to give effect to the principles of international solidarity and responsibility sharing”.
Over 100,000 refugees have arrived in Sudan since the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December last year, with nearly 1,000 new refugees arriving every week. The growing number of refugees further compounds a deteriorating humanitarian situation across Sudan. In Darfur alone, over 400,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year, placing significant strain on the delivery of humanitarian services.