UN concerned about protection of civilians in Sudan, official says

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UNITED NATIONS, April 17 (Xinhua) -- A senior UN official on Wednesday expressed her concern about the protection of civilians in Sudan, noting that the broader population has been affected by the worsening economy.

"We are very concerned about the protection of civilians, particularly in Darfur, where localized fighting continues," Ursula Mueller, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told a Security Council meeting on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.

"Well before the latest developments in Sudan, humanitarian needs in Darfur, and other parts of the country, were already growing due to the economic crisis,"she said, adding that "people who have been receiving humanitarian assistance now require greater support."

"The broader population has also been affected by the worsening economy and there is a risk that more people slide into greater vulnerability and poverty," said the assistant secretary-general.

The briefing took place less than one week after the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir by the Sudanese military following ongoing protests in many parts of the country calling for al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan for nearly three decades, to step down.

On April 11, Sudan's Defense Minister, Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, appeared on state television and announced the military's detention of al-Bashir, the suspension of the constitution, and the start of a two-year transitional period to be overseen by the military and followed by elections. A three-month state of emergency was also declared in the country.

"Reports of incidents of violence involving internally displaced persons, including internally displaced persons killed in Kalma camp in South Darfur on April 13, are worrying," said Mueller.

She told the Security Council that the economic crisis in Sudan "has had a significant impact" on humanitarian needs and operations, which includes "rapid currency devaluation, rampant inflation, increasing prices for food and medicine, a marked decline in purchasing power and intermittent shortages of daily bread and fuel supplies."

"According to the latest analysis, 5.8 million people are presently food insecure, up from 3.8 million the year before...With the start of the lean season in May, the number will increase," she warned.

"Shortages of imported commodities have also impacted healthcare and other services," she added.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund last week allocated 26.5 million U.S. dollars to assist vulnerable people in areas which have seen some of the largest increases in food insecurity linked to the economic situation, said the assistant secretary-general.

The Sudan Humanitarian Fund is also providing over 20 million dollars in complementary funding, she added.

"More support is needed," said she, adding that humanitarian partners are appealing for 1.1 billion dollars this year to assist 4.4 million of the most vulnerable people, which represents a bit more than half of the overall needs identified in the country.

"Without expanded social safety nets, the ongoing economic situation will have serious consequences," she warned.

"At this critical time, it is essential to ensure that the people of Darfur and the rest of Sudan receive the assistance and the support they need," she said. Enditem

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