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UNHCR Running Out of Money in Darfur

The U.N. refugee agency says it may have to scale down its operations in West Darfur because it is running out of money. The UNHCR says it is facing a shortfall of more than $7 million needed to assist more than two million internally displaced people and thousands of refugees from Chad and the Central African Republic. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA News from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The U.N. refugee agency says it is hard to believe it has to appeal for money when the misery of millions of people in Darfur is constantly in the news. It says cuts will have to be made in its protection and assistance programs to compensate for the lack of funds.

U.N. refugee spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, says many of the 2.5 million displaced people and about 30,000 refugees from Chad and the Central African Republic will suffer from these cut backs.

"For the IDPs [internally displaced people] and for the refugees, we are concerned that they have access to legal redress, that we get relief items to the most vulnerable of these people," Pagonis said. "We help strengthen services including digging wells, schools and health centers and try to prevent further displacement, for instance rehabilitation projects. So, that is what we try and do."

Pagonis says the financial situation is expected to become tighter as more people are forced to flee their homes.

She notes an estimated 250,000 people have been newly displaced this year due to ongoing violence. She says most of the camps around el Geneina and Zalingei are full and new sites will have to be created.

Pagonis says it is very difficult and dangerous for aid workers to carry out their humanitarian mission.

"Often, we have to travel by helicopter because of security concerns to get to these places," Pagonis said. "If we go by road, we require an escort from the African Union troops to ensure security. So, that is a problem. So far this year, 77 aid workers have been abducted and nearly 70 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked. So, that gives you some idea of the scale of insecurity that people work in this place suffer from. And, with those constraints, it is very important that we can still continue to be able to do the work that we have been doing."

The private British charity, OXFAM, has also announced it may have to pull out of Darfur because its aid workers are under threat.