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Theft Threatens Ability To Feed Millions In Dafur


Attacks And Theft Seriously Threaten UN Ability To Feed Millions In Sudan’s Darfur

Shootings, attacks on drivers and thefts of contracted trucks carrying critically needed food aid in Sudan’s war-ravaged western Darfur region are seriously threatening the ability of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to assist millions of people at a time when needs are increasing daily, the agency said today.

“The security situation is so bad that many drivers are now refusing to move through sections of the road corridors to the three Darfur states,” WFP country director Ramiro Lopes da Silva said of the region, where fighting between the Government, allied militias and rebels has killed tens of thousands of people and driven nearly 2 million from their homes in the past two years.

“These attacks are completely unconscionable. They create a climate of fear that together with truck seizures pose a real threat to our ability to deliver food,” he added of the banditry which has also affected other humanitarian organizations.

He cited several cases. A driver of a WFP-contracted truck was shot dead in a raid in January. Drivers have been taken hostage and two are still missing. This month alone, a driver was shot and wounded, another had his hands broken and others were severely beaten. A total of 13 WFP-contracted trucks are still missing after a string of raids; eight of these are known to be held by the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).

But WFP is pushing ahead with deliveries in a bid to reach the rising numbers of people in need and to preposition supplies before the rainy season cuts off access to many areas. Some 50,000 tons of food were moved this month alone.

It is estimated that a monthly average of 2.3 million people will need food aid in Darfur this year, rising to 2.8 million during the rainy season months. There are concerns that a poor harvest in 2004 and rising prices for basic commodities will push numbers even higher. In February, WFP fed 1.6 million people in Darfur, the highest monthly total since its emergency operation began in April 2004.

WFP-contracted trucks are vital to achieving such targets. Though accustomed to a certain degree of risk in the region, drivers halted a 37-truck convoy in Ed-Daien last week because it was just too dangerous to leave.

WFP has protested about the attacks in the strongest terms, through the African Union, which has a monitoring force in the region and Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Jan Pronk, who has raised the issue with SLA representatives.

“These attacks must stop, and the trucks must be returned – it is as simple as that,” Mr. Lopes da Silva said.

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