Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (142)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the humanitarian situation in Sudan; the response of the Government of Sudan to the demands of the United Nations and the response generally to the UN consolidated funding appeal. [27730/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The humanitarian situation in Sudan, particularly the Darfur region, remains at the top of the agenda for Ireland. We have used all avenues open to us to urge action in improving the humanitarian, security and political challenges which exist there.

The Government has provided almost €10 million in funding to Sudan in 2004. The sum of €6 million has been provided in emergency assistance to meet the immediate needs of some of the most vulnerable populations in Darfur. Assistance amounting to over €3 million is being provided to other areas of Sudan, where needs are also great. Sudan has received the most significant level of Irish Government humanitarian support in 2004. In addition, I would also underline that the Irish people have been extremely generous in their private contributions to aid agencies.

The recent progress in meeting immediate humanitarian needs has been put in some jeopardy by an escalation in security incidents over the last few days. Field missions by international organisations have been suspended by the UN security co-ordinator until further notice. The security situation in all three states of Darfur remains highly volatile, and we are keeping in close touch with Irish NGOs operating there about the situation.

This recent deterioration follows on improvements in the humanitarian situation in September and early October. In September the UN World Food Programme, WFP, provided food to 1.3 million people in the Darfur region, exceeding its own target of 1.2 million and recording its largest food distribution since the humanitarian crisis began. Over 1.5 million people are now thought to be displaced within Darfur and 200,000 have crossed the border into Chad. Those affected will need continued humanitarian assistance for some considerable time to come. The needs remain huge and almost one half of all families do not have sufficient food. According to the WFP, 22% of children under five years are malnourished. The WFP remains a key partner for Ireland.

The UN Consolidated Appeal for Sudan for 2004 estimates that approximately US$720 million will be required for humanitarian programmes in Sudan, including Darfur. To date over US$490 million, 68%, has been contributed to this appeal. This does not include the significant funding being delivered to Sudan via NGOs and other international organisations such as the Red Cross family.

It is clear that the Government of Sudan needs to do more to meet its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1564. The most recent report by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, presented to the Security Council on 5 October, showed no real improvement in the overall situation in Darfur and a continuing failure by the Sudanese authorities to disarm the Janjaweed militias and bring those responsible for serious human rights violations to justice. The international community must therefore continue to maintain pressure on the Sudanese Government including, if necessary, through sanctions, to meet its obligations and support all efforts to put an end to the conflict between the Government and local rebel groups. It is also incumbent on the rebel groups to engage constructively in the peace process.

UN Resolution 1564 also calls on the UN Secretary General to set up an international commission of inquiry which will investigate claims of human rights abuses and also genocide. The Government of Sudan has pledged its co-operation with this commission. Ireland fully supports the work of the international commission and looks forward to its producing a report at the earliest opportunity.