There are more warnings today that funding shortfalls are going to affect UN humanitarian operations in Africa. UNICEF says its programs in Sudan?s Darfur region face cutbacks in a few months if donors don?t contribute more now.

Ted Chaiban is UNICEF?s representative in Sudan. He?s currently in Washington talking to congressional and Bush administration officials. Chaiban spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about conditions in Darfur.

He says, ?I think the situation since last September has gotten worse in Darfur in terms of security and access. And we?re now facing an additional threat to children in Darfur, specifically with regards to a lack of funding. In the case of UNICEF, we can still access about two-thirds of the displaced people in Darfur and the host communities around them. We want to make sure that at least those populations keep getting education, health, water and sanitation. With the money we have now, we?re going to run out of resources by June. So, the combination of security, access and limited funding is really putting a real strain on the situation.?

Asked why UNICEF and other UN agencies are facing funding shortfalls, Chaiban says, ?The reason is that the Darfur crisis has been going on for two years. People expected a political solution in Abuja (Nigeria), where the peace talks are taking place since December and it hasn?t taken place. So, our message is we?ve got to stay the course for another year until there is a political resolution. By this time next year people hopefully will be going back home to plant and rebuild their lives. I mean in the case of UNICEF the funding cuts are very real. Most immediately they ?have an impact on education. There are about 300,000 children in schools that may no longer be in school if we have to cut the program.?

The UNICEF official warns that health programs will also suffer. Part of the problem is donor fatigue, he says; people are anxious for parties to the conflict to take responsibility. But Chaiban says in the meantime, innocent people will suffer.