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UN Seeking $1.8 Billion for Sudan

The United Nations says Sudan will need more than $1.8 billion to fund humanitarian recovery and development projects next year. Operations in Sudan represent more than half of the $3.7 billion the U.N. appealed for humanitarian assistance worldwide in 2007. Lisa Schlein has more from Geneva.

The lion's share of the money will go toward the ongoing humanitarian operation in Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur. Nearly four million people have been affected by the war that broke out in 2003 between the Sudan-backed Janjaweed Arab militia and rebel groups. About 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million made homeless.

Manuel Aranda da Silva is deputy special representative to the secretary-general. He calls Darfur a very dangerous place. He says humanitarian operations are hampered by banditry and bureaucratic impediments. He says rebels and criminals regularly hijack aid workers trucks and loot their provisions.

He says the government has not provided enough security and aid workers have difficulty receiving visas or permits to work there.

Despite all these problems, da Silva says the hundreds of millions of dollars the international community has spent in Darfur has had a positive impact.

"The malnutrition rates in Darfur are below 15 percent and that is considered not an emergency threshold," he said. "And, the mortality rates are very low. Now, this is happening because a massive humanitarian operation is there. And, of course, if you unplug that, things will go back to 2003. I have no doubt about it, but that is positive that that effort was not useless. Hundreds of thousands of people did not die."

The United Nations other big project is to rebuild and develop southern Sudan so people who fled the country's long-running civil war will go home. Since a peace agreement was signed between the government and Sudan People's Liberation Army in January 2005, about one million refugees and internally displaced people have returned home. The U.N. expects another 600,000 to go back next year.

Southern Sudan's infrastructure was shattered during the war. Much of the money in the U.N. appeal will go toward rebuilding. U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, David Gressly, says the government of southern Sudan is rebuilding the roads in its capital, Juba.

"That construction has already started," he noted. "I live right beside the construction, so I can witness to that. So, that is in progress. Replacing the power grid in Juba-that also is well under way. They are replacing the generating capacity of electricity in Juba. Those generators have arrived and will be switched on, I understand, very soon and they will be moving on to water and sanitation systems in the town."

Gressly says southern Sudan has practically no paved roads and work on building a network of roads is under way. He says many roads have been de-mined, so aid agencies can safely deliver goods and schools and health clinics are being rebuilt.

The United Nations says all these projects are needed to consolidate the peace.