FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thank you, Mr. President and thank you to OCHA for their briefing this afternoon.
We have all just heard a truly troubling report—a depiction of a crisis created by one man that threatens the lives more than one and a half million men, women, and children.
The United States strongly condemns the Government of Sudan’s expulsion of 13 international aid organizations and its closure of three Sudanese aid groups. By expelling aid groups, the Sudanese government is denying water, food, healthcare, and sanitation to people whom it drove out of their homes in the first place—thereby exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
Let me be clear: this is not, ”a made up crisis,” as the representative of Sudan would have you believe. On the contrary, this is a very real and urgent crisis of his government’s own making. President Bashir and his government are responsible for and must be held accountable for each and every death caused by these callous and calculated actions. The Sudanese government made this decision and owns its consequences, which will not only cost lives but leave the government locked deeper in an isolation of its own making.
My colleagues, surely no person of conscience can remain unmoved by the untold misery and death that this cut-off of desperately needed food, water, and medicine will inevitably inflict upon millions of innocents already huddled in the camps of Darfur. Surely we all believe that this body must act on their behalf. And surely we all believe that we should speak with one voice in the face of such suffering.
Mr. President, we urge the international community to press the Government of Sudan to reverse its expulsion edict—and to ensure it does nothing to worsen an already grave situation.
President Bashir created this crisis and he should rectify it immediately. The United States for its part is working urgently, closely, and intensively with UN institutions and other member states to try to reverse the Government of Sudan’s expulsion order. But today you heard the Sudanese representative say his government would never reverse the order.
Mr. President, the United States believes that member states and this Council must never stand by idly while over a million people are at imminent risk of death.
Mr. President, time is of the essence. The UN has already reported that it has become significantly more difficult to provide food to already malnourished Sudanese children.
We also believe that the new shortfalls in water have made meningitis more widespread in the Jebel Marra area and in the Kalma camp. On top of that, the lack of health care is preventing meningitis patients from receiving proper treatment. When treated, the death rate for someone with meningitis can be one in ten or lower; left untreated, the death rate jumps to one in two. We remain deeply concerned that meningitis and other infectious diseases will continue to spread inside camps and other areas that now lack reliable access to water, food, and basic medical services.
We are also facing a growing humanitarian crisis in Zam Zam camp in north Darfur. Resources there have already been stretched to the limit. And now the camp is struggling to house more than 36,000 internally displaced people fleeing the recent fighting in south Darfur between rebels and the government. We urge the Sudanese government, in close consultation with the UN and the NGOs, to address water, housing, and other problems at Zam Zam and the other camps across Darfur before an already dire situation deteriorates any further.
The United States supports the urgent efforts by UNAMID, the World Food Program, and others to provide relief now, including desperately needed clean water. But make no mistake, these efforts cannot even begin to fill the gap left by the expelled aid groups.
With every passing day, President Bashir has used increasingly menacing rhetoric to further escalate the crisis. By doing so, he has jeopardized the safety of the remaining brave men and women from all across the world who provide urgently needed aid to the Sudanese people. And he has further jeopardized the lives of the innocent civilians in the camps who depend on that aid.
Meanwhile, UNAMID continues to operate under dangerous conditions. The March 17 ambush of UNAMID peacekeepers in south Darfur, which left one of them dead, only underscores the risks they continue to run in Darfur. We offer our deepest condolences to the peacekeeper’s family and to the men and women of UNAMID. And we reaffirm the US commitment to supporting them as UNAMID implements its important mandate.
The United States will continue to work closely with the UN, humanitarian aid groups, and others to relieve the suffering of the people of Darfur. We have already provided nearly $4 billion for humanitarian programs in Sudan and eastern Chad since 2004. In Fiscal 2008 and thus far in Fiscal 2009, we have provided nearly $1.25 billion for the people of Sudan.
We continue to be proud of the efforts of US Agency for International Development, which has provided more than $720 million in humanitarian aid in Darfur in Fiscal 2008 and thus far in 2009. But at a stroke, the expulsions eliminated some 54 percent of USAID’s non-food programs in Darfur—cutting off lifesaving efforts to provide health, water, and sanitation. The expulsions also eliminated an estimated 40 percent of the delivery capacity of USAID’s main partner in providing food aid in Darfur, the World Food Program.
Mr. President, we sincerely hope that this body will come together as one, finally, to protect the people of Darfur. The United States is determined to pursue long-term peace in the Darfur region, ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered, and spare innocent civilians from further harm.
We urge other members of this Council to join us in this urgent work. There are things upon which we can and will disagree. But surely saving the lives of desperate and innocent civilians being deliberately deprived of water, food, and medicine is not among them.
The Government of Sudan created this crisis. It now must act to end it.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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