Early in the morning on April 3rd, the first trucks start to arrive as the sun rises over the WFP Logistics Depot in Abéché, Chad.
Throughout the day, 124 trucks will arrive with 6,000 tonnes of wheat destined for WFP’s Emergency Operation in Eastern Chad, which assists Sudanese refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and affected host populations.
A few kilometres away, at a fork in the desert road that marks the entrance of Abéché, a WFP flag is tied to a tree. Next to it stands Youssef, a young Sudanese driver’s mate who is responsible, during this last stage of the journey, for directing the trucks onto a by-pass road towards the WFP Logistics Depot.
“The drivers are tired, and there is the risk that they will continue to the centre of Abéché, getting caught in the traffic,” Youssef explains. “I think that for most of them this is the first time they have ever been to Chad.”
Due to the political turmoil in Libya, Chad’s northern neighbour, WFP was forced to close the logistics corridor through which it previously transported food overland from the port in Benghazi, Libya to Abéché and North Eastern Chad. This disruption threatened to pose serious risks to the food security of more than one million beneficiaries in eastern Chad who depend on WFP’s assistance.
Climate and geographic disposition also pose logistics challenges when transporting food assistance into Chad. As a land-locked country that experiences a rainy season from four to five months in Eastern Chad which renders this region inaccessible, WFP logisticians must plan and bring in a year’s supply of food in seven months -- when most operations have almost twice that. From the moment of purchase to the arrival of the goods, it can take four to six months. Among other obstacles WFP must overcome, security risks caused by anti-government rebels and poor roads and transport infrastructure can cause a real impact on operations.
In a country where food delivery is a challenge under normal circumstances, the Libya upheaval inflicted additional hardships on WFP’s ability to reach its beneficiaries. As the situation intensified, overland transport from Port Benghazi to Chad through the “Libyan Corridor” – a route which provides for nearly 40% of Chad’s relief supplies per annum – was now impossible. The arrival of two vessels at the end of February to Port Benghazi carrying food assistance for Eastern Chad experienced the implications of the Corridor’s closure when they had to be re-routed to Port Sudan.
Upon arrival in Sudan, WFP opened a new logistics route that reached 3,000 km across Sudan, through the tumultuous region of Darfur and across a border that had, until only recently, been closed due to security reasons.
Although part of the Sudanese Corridor was used in 2007, the complete logistics corridor which connects Port Sudan to Chad had not been used since 2001, as a result of rebel activity and insecurity in Darfur.
One month after loading their cargo from the vessels in Port Sudan, the first convoy of trucks arrived in Abéché. The convoy encountered some delays during their travels, as they navigated poor dirt roads, border customs controls and military escorts.
“It has been a very long and tiring trip, taking close to one month,” said Mohammed Osma, the Sudanese Convoy Leader and an experienced trucker whose company is often chartered by WFP. “The fact that the border between Chad and Sudan is open is proof that we will have lasting peace in this region. ‘Alhamdulillah’”, he says -- which means "Praise to God."
Now that the wheat has arrived in Abéché, it will be transferred to local transporters for delivery to refugee and IDP camps, as well as host villages in the Eastern Chadian regions of Sila, Ouaddai, Wadi-Fira, Northern Salamat and Southern Ennedi. A second convoy carrying almost 3,500 tonnes of sorghum and over 1,000 tonnes of yellow split peas is also on its way, and is expected to arrive in Abéché in late April.
With the Sudanese Corridor back into use again, WFP logisticians have found a solution once more.
All photos Copyright: WFP/Rodolfo Losada