26 April 2007 Visiting camps in the west of Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region that are home to thousands of Chadians fleeing conflict in their own neighbouring country, the United Nations refugee chief has pledged to step up efforts to improve local access to water in the arid region.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres toured areas adjacent to the Sudanese-Chadian border and met with African Union (AU) officials in West Darfur yesterday, the third day of his visit to Sudan.
An estimated 25,000 Chadians have sought refuge in West Darfur, despite the conflict in that part of Sudan, because of fighting across eastern Chad in recent months between rebels and Government forces.
During his talks with the refugees and the AU officials, Mr. Guterres acknowledged the vital importance of water to everyone living in the region, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.
He promised that UNHCR and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners would do their utmost to find better solutions for the refugees and Darfur’s own swelling population of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Mr. Guterres is travelling today to Kassala state in eastern Sudan to visit Kilo 26 and Wad Sherife, two camps for Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees.
Eastern Sudan is home to about 136,000 refugees and there have been camps in that part of the country since 1968, but the situation there is largely forgotten because of the better-known refugee situations of Darfur and southern Sudan.
UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran has also been in Darfur as part of her own visit to Sudan, which is home to the agency’s largest operation in the world. Some 5.5 million Sudanese are expected to receive food aid from WFP this year.
Ms. Sheeran toured an IDP camp in North Darfur state, where she met women residents and distributed hand mills for grinding cereals.
In a separate statement, the Programme welcomed the Sudanese Government’s decision to expedite a shipment of 100,000 metric tons of cereals that had been delayed at Port Sudan.
WFP also hailed Egypt’s donation of more than 250 tons of wheat flour, rice and vegetable oil to Sudan and Somalia, which is beset by its own humanitarian crisis.