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Cablegate: Wfp to Reduce Darfur Food Aid Rations in May

VZCZCXRO1487
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0654/01 1201614
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291614Z APR 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0686
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000654

SIPDIS

AIDAC
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/SPG, PRM, AF/C, AND ALSO PASS USAID/W
USAID FOR DCHA SUDAN TEAM, FFP/W, AFR/SP
NAIROBI FOR USAID/EA/FFP, OFDA/ECARO, AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, AND BPITTMAN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
USUN FOR FSHANKS
BRUSSELS FOR PBROWN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI UN SU
SUBJECT: WFP TO REDUCE DARFUR FOOD AID RATIONS IN MAY

KHARTOUM 00000654 001.2 OF 003


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) On April 14, the UN World Food Program (WFP) informed key
donors that in May it would be forced to nearly halve the general
food aid ration distributed in Darfur, due to ongoing banditry
against contracted commercial vehicles resulting in decreased
commodity dispatches. WFP issued a press release announcing the
impending reduction on April 17. A rash of banditry since late 2007
has pushed WFP's transport capacity to the limit as drivers now
refuse to travel without a Government of Sudan police escort.
However, insufficient escort capacity has significantly reduced
commodity dispatches to Darfur at a time when WFP should be building
up warehouse stocks in advance of the rainy season. The decision to
reduce rations is meant to stretch stocks of food so that WFP can
resume full rations during the height of the hunger season
(July-September), when food aid needs are highest. End Summary.

--------------------------
A DANGEROUS ROAD TO TRAVEL
--------------------------

2. (U) Though carjackings, lootings and abductions have been a
persistent and insidious risk for humanitarian groups operating in
Darfur since 2003, the deliberate targeting of Sudanese commercial
trucks carrying humanitarian goods is a relatively recent
phenomenon. Attacks on commercial transport picked up significantly
in September 2007 and have continued apace in 2008.

3. (U) According to WFP, since January 1 60 WFP-contracted
commercial trucks have been hijacked in Darfur. Thirty-nine trucks
have yet to be recovered and 26 drivers remain unaccounted-for. One
driver was killed last month while attempting to deliver commodities
to Nyala.

4. (SBU) WFP security has classified incidents in three main
categories:

- Banditry against one or two vehicles: incidents usually result in
the theft of food cargo, communications equipment, or money. Some
incidents have resulted in abduction and ransom demands for the
driver. Most incidents of this kind have taken place along the Ed
Daein-Nyala road and along the Nyala-Kass-Zalingei road.

- Banditry against large convoys, including convoys of empty trucks:
WFP security speculates that these incidents are primarily meant to
replenish rebel groups' logistics (transport assets) and to sell
stolen trucks on the black market in Chad. Transporters have
reported to WFP that they are aware of at least nine of their stolen
trucks now with Chadian plates operating on the other side of the
border. A significant majority of these incidents (24) have
occurred along the En Nahud (Western Kordofan) to El Fasher road in
North Darfur.

- Taxation at checkpoints: incidents of taxation or extortion occur
primarily in rebel-held areas, or areas that are only loosely
patrolled by GOS military and police. WFP security speculates that
armed groups - both rebels and GOS-allied militia - are increasingly
using the taxation of commercial traffic as another means of funding
their operations.

-------------------
WAITING FOR ESCORTS
-------------------

5. (U) WFP-contracted transporters are now refusing to deliver food
from logistics hubs outside of Darfur (El Obeid, Khartoum) without a
GOS police escort. Further, in South Darfur, the GOS is requiring
all commercial traffic to have a GOS police escort and threaten to
fine/detain drivers that don't comply.

6. (U) Though WFP notes that GOS police escorts have likely deterred
some attacks - particularly in South Darfur - banditry even on
escorted convoys continues. For large convoys (greater than 100
trucks) travel over long stretches of road, in particular,
well-armed bandits are able to quickly attack and steal vehicles
from the middle of convoys before the lead and follow vehicles have
time to respond.

7. (U) The unfortunate consequence of transporters' demand, as well

KHARTOUM 00000654 002.2 OF 003


as GOS requirements, for escorts has been a significant reduction in
commodity deliveries from logistical hubs to warehouse locations
within Darfur. Due to limited capacity and slow GOS response at the
state and local levels, convoys are often backed up awaiting
escorts. The net result has been an overall decrease in trucking
turnaround times and delivery speed.

8. (U) WFP generally aims to keep at least one month's food aid
requirement - two months during the rainy season - in each Darfur
state at any given time. To maintain these stocks, WFP must
dispatch between 40,000 - 60,000 metric tons to Darfur each month,
depending on seasonal variations in the beneficiary caseload. Due
to the inefficient pace of escorts and decreased turnaround time,
however, WFP is now only able to deliver approximately 30,000 metric
tons to Darfur each month. As a result, WFP's buffer stocks are
being drawn down at a worrying rate.


---------------------
BETTER NOW THAN LATER
---------------------

9. (U) At present, WFP has sufficient food stocks in the pipeline -
meaning either in Darfur, in logistical hubs elsewhere in Sudan, or
committed by donors but not yet in Sudan - to provide full rations
to the planned caseload through September (assuming no hindrances to
internal deliveries, which is not the case currently). Further, WFP
forecasts sufficient stocks in Darfur warehouses to distribute full
rations in May - over 67,000 metric tons still in stock by end
April. Nonetheless, WFP took the decision to reduce the May ration
in order to ensure that food stocks would be available for full
rations during the more critical months later in the summer, when
food insecurity and humanitarian needs are at their peak.

10. (U) Specifically, WFP will reduce the cereals, pulses and sugar
portion of the general ration, planned for 2.8 million people in
Darfur during the month of May, by 50 percent. The other
commodities - oil, corn-soya blend (CSB), and salt - will remain at
full ration size. The overall kilo-calorie value of the ration will
drop from the recommended 2,156 kcals per day to 1,242 kcals per
day, representing an overall 40 percent reduction in the intended
ration size.

11. (U) WFP has revised their dispatch strategy to prioritize
non-cereal deliveries in May, given their nutritional importance
relative to cereals. Assuming present dispatch rates - 50 percent
of planned amounts due to the delays with escorts - WFP forecasts
being able to restore a full pulses ration in June; sugar rations
will depend on the timely delivery of planned imports. Also based
on present dispatch rates, WFP believes it will be able to restore
full cereal rations in July. Without the reductions made in May and
June, and assuming current, diminished delivery rates into Darfur,
WFP would run out of food by the middle of June, and would not have
sufficient stock or inflows to continue meeting the needs of an
expanded caseload in July. Note: During the hunger gap months of
July-September, WFP's total caseload in Darfur increases to a peak
of approximately 3.1 million beneficiaries, well above the average
monthly caseload of 2.3-2.4 million beneficiaries during the rest of
the year.

12. (U) Based on current nutritional and food security indicators,
WFP does not believe that the ration reductions will significantly
affect the humanitarian situation before full rations can be
restored. On the other hand, if the cuts were to take place during
the hunger season and/or be greater than 50 percent, the risk, in
humanitarian terms, would be much more significant. Among all
humanitarian actors, the biggest worry about the reductions is not a
deterioration of humanitarian conditions but the risk of unrest in
IDP camps throughout Darfur. WFP and its implementing partners are
reaching out to camp leaders to explain the rationale for the
impending reduction.

------------------------
LIMITED RESPONSE OPTIONS
------------------------

13. (U) Barring any significant breakthrough on the peace process
and assuming that UNAMID capacity will continue to be constrained
for the near future, the international community's options to halt,
or even marginally disrupt, the rash of banditry occurring in Darfur
are limited given the lucrative nature of the robberies to rebel

KHARTOUM 00000654 003.2 OF 003


groups and to the black market in Chad. WFP is procuring additional
banners to provide to commercial transporters so that vehicles can
be clearly marked as carrying humanitarian aid, and has publicized
the reasons for the ration reduction in the local press.

14. (U) Given the significant quantities involved, WFP does not
believe that restarting airlifts out of El Obeid and/or Al Kufra
(Libya) are feasible or desirable options at this time for making up
the current gap in overland deliveries. At the height of the air
operations in 2005, WFP was transporting 11,000 metric tons per
month by air (5,000 MT/month from El Obeid and 6,000 MT/month from
Al Kufra)- less than half of the amount needed to make up the
present transport shortfall. Nonetheless, WFP is investigating
options for keeping two IL-76 airplanes on standby in El Obeid,
which would offer approximately 3,000 MT additional transport
capacity per month. If the situation warranted returning to
airlifts to deliver food into Darfur, WFP would look to use this
capacity strategically, for transporting high-value commodities
(non-cereals) and only for areas where humanitarian indicators are
most severe or life-threatening.

15. (U) According to WFP, the only realistic, immediate term option
for increasing deliveries is to increase the number and frequency of
GOS escorts for commercial transport - police, military or national
security. More frequent and efficient escorts would increase truck
turnaround time and minimize convoy backup at logistical hubs, not
to mention attacks on longer convoys. WFP does not believe that
more regular patrols - either by GOS forces or UNAMID - would help
the situation, given the long distances involved.

-----------------------
GOS APPEARS RESPONSIVE
-----------------------

16. (SBU) WFP has approached UN leadership in Khartoum to discuss
the possibility of UNAMID escorts along the most problematic route
(En Nahud - El Fasher), and discussions are ongoing. WFP reported
to USAID/FFP staff that at a meeting between WFP leadership, HAC,
GOS National Security and the heads of WFP's main transport
companies April 24, the GOS pledged to provide police escorts every
48 hours for convoys traveling from logistical hubs to Darfur. WFP
stated that this pledge, if actually implemented, will make a
significant difference in trucking turnaround times and would bring
primary deliveries to Darfur back up to target levels, assuming the
security situation does not continue to deteriorate.

-------
COMMENT
-------

17. (U) The ration reductions planned for May and June are the
unfortunate but necessary triage that has to occur when faced with
significantly reduced supply, growing demand and the time
limitations of the approaching hunger and rainy season. While a
severe deterioration of humanitarian conditions due to the ration
reduction is not expected at this time, USAID will continue to
closely monitor the situation, particularly any signs of unrest in
IDP camps once rations begin to be distributed in early May.

18. (SBU) The US Mission will continue to impress on rebel leaders
that banditry against humanitarian and commercial vehicles not only
hurts their people through reduced service delivery, but makes any
prospect of recovery and development in Darfur a distant possibility
if commercial transport cannot be assured safety along even primary
roads. One unexplored option would be to somehow seek to dry up the
lucrative black market trade in stolen property in Chad - a
difficult prospect. Likewise, the US Mission will continue to press
the GOS to increase the number and frequency of escorts allocated to
commercial vehicles carrying humanitarian cargo. Following the
US-Sudan bilateral talks in Rome, and the discussion of escorts for
humanitarian convoys, the GOS made a commitment to provide
additional security and escorts along WFP's routes. Although
limited in their capacity to provide security along the long routes,
it appears that the GOS is making a concerted effort to appease
donors and improve the situation.

FERNANDEZ

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