UN official highlights economic hardships posing risk to stability in Sudan

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UNITED NATIONS, March 9 (Xinhua) -- The head of the United Nations mission in Sudan on Tuesday warned against ignoring economic hardships that are posing a risk to stability in the Northeast African country.

"We cannot ignore, though, that economic hardships are posing a risk to Sudan's stability," head of United Nations Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, said in his first briefing to the Security Council's videoconference briefing on the mission.

"Inflation stood at 304 percent in January. Sudan also suffers from large trade and fiscal deficits, high rates of unemployment and poverty. 13.4 million people -- a quarter of the country's population -- are projected to require humanitarian assistance, including 2.5 million internally displaced persons," said the German diplomat, who was appointed by the secretary-general as his new special representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS.

"Sudan generously hosts 1 million refugees, including 70,000 recent arrivals from Ethiopia. While the transitional government launched the Family Support Program on Feb. 24 to ease the strain on large segments of the Sudanese population, the need for sustained financial and economic support to Sudan cannot be overstated," he said.

"I therefore urge the international community to step up their assistance to Sudan," Perthes added.

Speaking of the protection of civilians, the official said that it remains one of the main priorities of the mission.

In January, intercommunal clashes in El Geneina, in West Darfur, left 165 people dead and over 100,000 displaced. Subsequent clashes in South and West Darfur underscore the risks of more intercommunal violence, he said.

"During my team's recent visit to Darfur, displaced men and women expressed their fears of further violence and insecurity, including gender-based violence," Perthes noted. Enditem

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