New Zealander highlights plight of Sudanese

A New Zealand Red Cross worker returning this week from Sudan is warning that the troubled Darfur region is likely to face a major food crisis next year.

Andrew Macalister, of Nelson, says that the annual harvest is just finishing in most areas of Darfur, and appears to be only about a quarter of normal.

"For people remaining in rural areas, this means that their food supplies will begin to run out in the first quarter of 2005," Mr Macalister says.

"At this point, people will be reliant on wild food, trade and humanitarian assistance to survive."

Mr Macalister says the reduced harvest is a result of drought and the continued conflict in the region. "As most crops are planted away from villages, residents have not felt safe to sow and harvest as they would normally."

In addition, farmers, pastoralists and nomads have also suffered large livestock losses as a result of the conflict.

The Red Cross is providing food assistance to residents and returnees in rural areas and will step this up further in 2005. In total, the International Committee of the Red Cross has budgeted CHF85 million for Darfur (NZ$103 million), making it the largest Red Cross operation in the world.

Over the past year New Zealand Red Cross has had 12 aid workers in the field throughout Sudan.

Mr Macalister says ongoing assistance would also be needed for the approximately one million displaced people living in camps and the Red Cross would also continue to restore health, water and sanitation infrastructure in Darfur and advocate respect for international humanitarian law.

Through NZAID, the Government's international aid and development agency, New Zealand has contributed a total of NZ$4 million towards the humanitarian relief effort in Sudan and neighbouring countries. Of this $500,000 was provided to support New Zealand Red Cross activities in Darfur.

NZAID also provides annual funding of NZ$500,000 to the New Zealand Red Cross to enable the sending of New Zealand Red Cross aid workers to assist in international development and relief operations around the world.

To support the Red Cross in Sudan, visit or to make an automatic $20 donation, call 0900 33 200.