Bandits halve WFP food deliveries into Darfur

Escalating banditry has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to halve food deliveries in Darfur, and without immediate cash the United Nations agency will ground its humanitarian flights at the end of the month.

“This is an unprecedented situation. Our humanitarian air operation for aid workers could be forced to stop flying because we have no money, at a time when our helicopters and aircraft are needed more than ever because of high insecurity on the roads,” said Kenro Oshidari, WFP representative in Sudan.

The agency said it was transporting about half as much food into western Sudan’s war-torn Darfur as normal, and that the turnaround time for deliveries had slowed because truckers were unwilling to risk dangerous roads.

So far his year, hijackers have attacked five WFP passenger vehicles and 45 WFP-contracted trucks, the agency said in a statement.

“As the May to October rainy season approaches, the number of people needing humanitarian assistance and their food requirements will go up by as much as 50%,” the agency said.

“If the WFP cannot maintain deliveries, it will be forced to reduce rations in some areas,” it added.

“It’s vital that the main transport routes are secured. Our trucking contractors are delivering food under immense risks and the situation is unsustainable,” Oshidari said.

On top of the dangers of travelling by road, the WFP also said it would be forced to discontinue humanitarian flights at the end of the month in a move that would affect thousands of aid workers.

“Without an immediate infusion of cash, the operation will not be able to meet its $6,2-million monthly costs and will be forced to cease flights at the end of this month until new funds can be found,” it said.

WFP said about 8 000 humanitarian workers use the flights each month, mostly staff working for aid groups carrying out healthcare, water and sanitation or food relief work.

“The entire humanitarian community depends on WFP-HAS [humanitarian air services]. With a recent upsurge in insecurity in West Darfur and increased banditry on the roads throughout the region, the air operation is more important than ever,” Oshidari said.

“If it shut down, even for a brief period, vital relief would be denied to vulnerable civilians in Darfur,” Oshidari added.

The WFP expects to feed up to 5,6-million people throughout Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world despite an investment boom in the capital.

In Darfur, the UN says at least 200 000 people have died and more than two million fled their homes after ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Sudan’s Arab-dominated regime in February 2003. — AFP

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