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Fuel shortage slashes UN food airdrops to Sudan

Fuel shortage slashes UN food airdrops to hungry in southern Sudan

13 September 2005 – A crippling shortage of jet fuel has slashed the airlifting and airdropping of food aid in southern Sudan at the height of the annual hunger season, cutting deliveries by half at the worst time of the year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported today.

“This is a tragedy for hundreds of thousands of people,” WFP Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva said of efforts to help the recovery of the region after a peace agreement between the Government and southern rebels in January ended a two-decades-long civil war.

“Supplies of JetA1 [fuel] were short even before the refinery closure. That pushed us over the edge,” he added of the July closure of the Khartoum refinery for maintenance, a situation compounded by slow deliveries of fuel, a shortage of tankers, limited storage and high demand that prevented WFP from bridging the gap, and the rainy season’s impact on transportation.

“We tried everything we could to get sufficient supplies in time, but the demand was simply too great,” he said. “This could not have happened at a worse time for the people of Sudan.”

WFP had planned in August to deliver 20,700 tons of food for 1.3 million people in southern Sudan by air, road and river. But by the end of the month only 10,600 tons of food had reached 128 distribution centres – 51 per cent of the planned deliveries.

The shortage of JetA1 fuel was the major reason why WFP delivered only about one seventh of its projected aid by air from its hub at El Obeid to the south in August – 1,678 metric tons as against a target of 11,692 tons. With the rains, lack of roads, and the late arrival of donor funds curtailing pre-positioning, the agency has no alternative at this time of year but to rely on airdrops and airlifts.

The fuel shortage persisted into September and has also hampered deliveries to the Darfur region of western Sudan, plagued by a separate conflict between the Government, allied militias and rebels, where WFP is feeding more than 2 million people.

But the impact was hardest in the south. To date, more than two-thirds through the year, the Emergency Operation for the South, East and Transitional Areas has a shortfall of 41 per cent or $124 million. It can take four months for ‘in kind’ donations of food to reach south Sudan, an area four times the size of France.

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