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UN Refugee Agency Begins Operations In Darfur - 2004-06-25

The UN refugee agency, which operates eight camps for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, has now established a presence in Sudan?s Darfur region. More than 100-thousand Sudanese fled into Chad to escape fighting between government forces and rebels. But in Darfur itself, more than one million people have been displaced.

The UNHCR has opened a regional office in western Darfur. Peter Kessler, a spokesman for UNHCR, says the office is located in El Geneina.

?Satellite premises are being established in Nyala in southern Darfur and El Fasher in the north from where UNHCR mobile teams will cover outlying areas,? according to an agency statement.

Mr. Kessler says, ?Already we?re establishing links with the World Food program to improve the registration of displaced people so that there can be more, clear counting of displaced persons and better distribution of food aid. And we?re working with national and international NGOs to improve services in some of the displaced persons camps that dot the region.?

However, the UNHCR spokesman says the agency has no plans at this time to open camps of its own. Instead, he says the agency hopes the Sudanese government will provide enough security to allow people to return to their homes. He says, ?We know there have been brutal human rights abuses that must be addressed. The situation must be secured so that the Sudanese people can go back to their home areas.?

The UNHCR, however, will work to try to improve conditions at camps that already exist for the internally displaced persons. Meanwhile, across the border in Chad, the UNHCR is operating camps that hold 110-thousand people. Efforts, though, are still be hindered by a shortage of clean water.

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