April 22nd, 2007 04:20 EST
UN refugee chief travels to Sudan to spotlight problems at opposite ends of country
The United Nations refugee chief heads to Sudan next week to discuss the western war-torn region of Darfur, home to a swelling population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Chadian refugees, and to also spotlight the forgotten situation in the country’s east, where Eritreans and Ethiopians have been living in camps for almost 40 years.
António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is scheduled to arrive in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Monday, the agency’s spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters today in Geneva. Mr. Guterres is expected to hold talks with senior Sudanese Government officials, including Foreign Minister Lam Akol, as well as UN staff.
The trip, the second to Sudan by Mr. Guterres, will take place as the UN system has asked UNHCR to expand its operations in Darfur, where clashes between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups have killed more than 200,000 people since 2003 and displaced another 2 million from their homes.
On Tuesday Mr. Guterres is slated to head to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, to meet IDPs, local authorities, African Union (AU) officials and staff from UN partner agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
West Darfur, one of three states comprising the vast Darfur region, is home to an estimated 700,000 IDPs, and UNHCR currently has access to about 500,000. Some 25,000 refugees from neighbouring Chad are also living in areas adjacent to the border.
Mr. Redmond said Mr. Guterres is set to then travel to eastern Sudan’s Kassala state on Thursday 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.
Mr. Redmond said UNHCR is shifting its activities in eastern Sudan from providing assistance to devising durable solutions, focusing on local integration as voluntary repatriation is not currently an option. Resettlement is also being considered for special cases.