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SUDAN: UN to boost emergency response in south

JUBA, 1 March 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations is seeking to strengthen emergency response capabilities in southern Sudan by training actors based in Unity and Lakes States, an official said.

"This is part of the transitioning of emergency responses from NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and the UN to the government of southern Sudan," said Philippe Verstraeten, head of the emergency preparedness response unit at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The UN agencies are coordinating the funding and implementation of a special emergency response team (ERT) in all 10 states of southern Sudan and last week the second of these training sessions took place in the town of Rumbek.

"The training will give people already involved in emergency responses standards to work with," Verstraeten said. Funding of US$300,000-$400,000 to train 150 people is being provided by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Common Humanitarian Fund and Oxfam.

Though a peace deal was signed between north and south Sudan in January 2005, ending more than 20 years of civil war in Sudan, the south still suffers outbreaks of inter-ethnic fighting, insecurity caused by the presence of militias, as well as frequent outbreaks of epidemics such as cholera, meningitis and yellow fever.

The weak capacity of the emerging government of southern Sudan has meant that UN agencies have been largely responsible for responding to such emergencies, Verstraeten said.

The new teams are comprised of UN and NGO staff, government actors, including members of the humanitarian department, the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC).

"These teams will definitely be a way of decentralising responsibility and building the capacity of the state," said Verstraeten, adding that the teams will have 15 specialists from seven sectors, including water and sanitation, nutrition and health.

According to James Kueth of the SSRRC, the teams will improve the responses to emergency situations in southern Sudan as well as help to establish trust between government authorities and the UN structures.

The teams will help the states take on responsibility for emergencies rather than relying on NGOs to respond, he said.

"I have just returned from Bor, where I saw the same problem as before; we're still relying on the NGOs there to respond to problems rather that the state government," said Kueth.

A problem with the rapid inter-agency assessments conducted by newcomers to an area, he said, was that they took a short-term perspective, without recognising how seasonal changes later in the year could impact on a community in crisis.

"The response linkages still need to be established; we need to work with the state government to create a forum, a decision and policy-making body," explained Verstraeten. "The teams are being formed but these forums have not yet been formed."



Copyright © IRIN 2007
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