September 7, 2012 (Juba) - The founder of eBay, an online auction site, Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam have given the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) $500,000 for emergency operations in South Sudan, where tens of thousands of refugees are living in camps.
- Three of the Elders addressing a press conference in Juba, 6 July 2012 (ST/Julius N. Uma)
Pam Omidyar and her husband, who created eBay in 1995, were reportedly inspired to help after hearing about the plight of Sudanese refugees in the camps, from three members of The Elders; a grouping of respected international figures dedicated to promoting peace and human rights.
In July, the Elders led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, met thousands of Sudanese refugees during a visit to Yusuf Batil Camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state.
During The Elders’ visit to the young nation, Archbishop Tutu told reporters in the capital Juba that the world needed to show support and solidarity with the people forcibly, displaced by the conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Pam Omidyar, according to a statement from UNHCR, said they have for long supported efforts to bring peace to the region, and have been compelled to act “at a humanitarian level” by the displacement crisis in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions over the past one year or so.
“Our donation to UNHCR is intended to provide urgent assistance to alleviate human suffering, while we continue to address the root causes of the forced displacement of people,” she said.
The couple, however, encouraged individuals, corporations and foundations to emulate their move, adding that they hope their donation will enhance further support for the refugees.
“Gifts like this have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of refugees on the ground. We are tremendously grateful for the consistent support from the Omidyars. They can be assured that their gift will help save the lives of some of the most vulnerable in South Sudan,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s representative in the United States.
Over the years, the Omidyars who are known for their philanthropy have reportedly contributed over US$1bn to address various causes, ranging from poverty alleviation, human rights to disaster relief.
About 160,000 people, the UN say, have fled the conflict in Sudan between government and SPLM-N rebels into Ethiopia and South Sudan, where humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope with the volume and extreme malnutrition and ill-health of the arriving refugees.
In Yusuf Batil camp, UNHRC recently raised the alarm over the health situations of children, with at least 15 percent of those under five reportedly suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
The refugee agency, as a result of these challenges, also appealed for US$219m for its Sudan emergency operation this year. To date, it says, only a third of this amount has been pledged, leaving serious unfilled gaps in its humanitarian intervention.
Meanwhile, UNHCR’s Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, George Okoth Obbo, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Eastern and Central Africa, Stanlake Samkange, are in the country to assess the humanitarian situation in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states.
The duo, Sudan Tribune has learned, are due to hold a press conference in Juba this Saturday following their visit to refugee camps in the two states to assess the food and nutrition as well as health situations.