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Darfur: high-level humanitarian mission to visit Sudan

DARFUR: HIGH-LEVEL HUMANITARIAN MISSION TO VISIT SUDAN NEXT WEEK

New York - The Secretary-General has asked James Morris, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, to lead a high-level humanitarian mission to the Darfur region of Sudan. The inter-agency mission, scheduled to be in Sudan from 27 April until 2 May, will get a first-hand look at the humanitarian situation, assess the scope of the crisis, and identify any gaps in humanitarian assistance.

As the ability of humanitarian agencies to assess the needs of people in Darfur increases, the United Nations expects it will have to revise its Humanitarian Appeal for Darfur upwards, beyond the $115 million it requested earlier this month. All funds contributed so far for relief efforts to assist some 1 million internally displaced persons in Darfur have already been exhausted.

One of the mission's most urgent tasks will be to identify ways to pre-position humanitarian supplies before the rainy season. It will also assess the possibility for conducting cross-border operations, airlifts and airdrops. The mission will discuss with Sudanese authorities, UN Agencies, NGOs and donors, ways to improve access and protection of civilians in Darfur.

The UN's Country Team in Sudan reports that its supplies of shelter materials for Darfur's internally displaced persons are now completely exhausted. It also notes that water shortages in Darfur are likely to lead to outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, measles and acute diarrhoeal diseases. Finally, existing stocks of food aid will also soon be depleted and will need urgent replenishment.

President Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir of Sudan extended the invitation to the United Nations so that agencies could view the situation on the ground with their own eyes. The UN estimates that more than one million people have been displaced in Darfur.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For further information, please contact:

Stephanie Bunker
OCHA/NY
Tel: +1-917-3675126
mobile: +1-917-8921679

Elizabeth Byrs
OCHA Geneva
Tel: +41-22-9172653
mobile: +41-79-4734570

Ben Parker
Spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan
Mobile: +254-733-609869

Trevor Rowe
WFP North America Spokesman
+1-212-9635196

Laura Melo
Public Affairs Officer
WFP/Nairobi
Tel. +254-2-622594

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications
WFP/Rome
Tel: +39-06-65132602
Mobile: +39-347-2582217