The United Nations refugee agency on Thursday slashed its 2006 budget for work in Darfur, saying security constraints in Sudan’s volatile western region had severely limited its operations there.
One week after warning of mounting instability in the Darfur region, where 2 million people have fled their homes since a rebellion broke out three years ago, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it needed to curtail its operations there.
“In view of the limited access to some areas and a reduced number of field staff, UNHCR has been compelled to downsize its operation in Darfur by almost half, while attempting to keep a certain level of flexibility,” the Geneva-based agency said.
The UNHCR said it would cut its program budget for the region this year by 44 percent to $18.5 million, from a previously planned $33 million. Should circumstances change, it said it would “immediately revise its program and issue a new appeal.”
Many in still in need
There are currently more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 UNHCR-run camps in Chad, which neighbors Darfur, in addition to the more than 1.7 million internally displaced persons within Darfur itself, the U.N. agency said.
Much of UNHCR’s work has been focused in West Darfur, an area it estimated 657,000 people are internally displaced.
Increasing armed clashes and rebel attacks targeting both civilians and humanitarian convoys have made it impossible for UNHCR to access a large part of West Darfur, UNHCR said.
“Interventions and assistance become extremely difficult when direct access to beneficiaries is limited,” it said in a statement explaining the revised budget.