(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Referendum will "increase humanitarian needs"

Voting begins on the first day of polling in Sudan's first multi-party elections for 24 years.  Voting is scheduled to last for three days from 11-13 April.  Voters will choose their national and regional presidents, governors and legislative representati
Timothy Mckulka/UNMIS

Humanitarian needs in Southern Sudan, where some 4.3m people already need food assistance and fewer than one in 10 earns more than US$1 a day, are likely to escalate after next year’s referendum on secession, says a government minister.



“Southern Sudan is at a major historical turning point. Years of civil war have been followed by relative peace in the last five years,” said the Southern Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, James Kok.



“I urge the international community to also prepare for the upcoming referendum and be ready to respond with us to a potential increase in humanitarian needs,” he said.



If the South votes for separation from the North and secession happens peacefully, “it’s going to be more challenging because there will be excitement and euphoria of being in a new state”, Kok said. “The people of Sudan will be just moving in a very unorganized way.



“We will be faced [with an influx of] refugees ... There are 1.5 million Southern Sudanese living in the northern states. If [the South] becomes a country, what do you think [will happen]?” the minister asked high-level representatives from UN agencies, NGOs and government officials in Juba, the Southern capital. “They are going to rush and they will be coming so there will be an immense [pressure].”



In addition, he highlighted the tens of thousands of refugees in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda who had yet to return home to the South five years after a landmark peace accord was signed.



While acknowledging the responsibility of the Southern government to help its people, the minister said: “The needs will be enormous so we will need your support, you have to prepare for that.”



Earlier at the same event, Lise Grande, the UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Southern Sudan, said: “The donors have been uniquely generous in the case of Sudan.



“For years, they have provided more than a billion dollars of assistance [per year]; in some years it’s been more than two billion dollars of assistance for Sudan,” she added. “There is no other country in the world that has benefited from such generous donations.”



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