Sudan: Natural resource management tops UN agenda

News and Press Release
Originally published
GENEVA, 21 November 2008 (IRIN) - As part of the UN's US$2.2 billion humanitarian appeal for Sudan, officials said their agencies would work to better manage natural resources in the African nation in the upcoming year.

"This year [2009], there will be more emphasis on recovery and more attention paid to natural resource management," Toby Lanzer, the UN's deputy humanitarian coordinator in northern Sudan, said on 20 November, in light of the desertification taking place in the country.

Tree-planting projects were under way to help stave off environmental changes, which were considered a major contributor to the violence in Sudan's west, and to offset the carbon emissions of peacekeeping missions.

While some three million trees were set to be planted, 10 times that number would be needed long term.

In Darfur the UN was working on providing access to land for more cattle owners without letting the grazing animals damage crops. This would help alleviate a critical problem - food, Lanzer said.

However, Darfur would remain a difficult area to live and work in, and some 17,000 aid workers were still in the region.

Responding to complaints about attacks on aid workers, Sudan's humanitarian aid commissioner, Hassabo Mohamed Abdel Rahman, said his government was working to secure their safety and reduce attacks on humanitarian aid convoys.

"The government is committed to full access for aid workers in Sudan," he pledged.

However, attacks continue and many areas remain out of the government's reach, particularly in areas close to the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic, both suffering from instability.

Haroun Lual, the minister for humanitarian affairs in the national unity government, said he expected the UN and African Union peacekeeping mission to be fully staffed by next June, in a move that would hopefully bring more stability and security to the region.

The Consolidated Appeals Process for Sudan is the largest of all the UN appeals this year, which total $7 billion. About half the money for Sudan is earmarked for the World Food Programme.

"The good news is that we already secured $620 million," Lanzer said, noting that most of the money was in the form of US food donations.

His counterpart in the south, Lise Grande, said the money requested would fund projects such as education for one million children through donations of school supplies and repair of buildings; granting 1.5 million people access to safe water, and emergency assistance for some 400,000 households, mostly in Darfur.

Rahman noted that about one-third of the 2009 appeal was for recovery and not relief, which was a starting point to helping the population eventually stand on its own feet.

The UN asked for about $180 million less in its previous appeal for the largest African country, which was 68 percent funded as of 10 November, equalling about $1.36 billion in donations from the international community.