PORT SUDAN - The first 25 of a total of 120 specialised all-terrain 6X6 trucks have arrived by sea in Port Sudan to help in a United Nations World Food Programme operation to deliver food by land and air to Darfur. As the rainy season lashes across an area the size of France, the situation is becoming increasingly desperate for hundreds of thousands of people trapped in camps.
The former military trucks, which WFP purchased from the Netherlands, arrived from Antwerp on Monday at the Red Sea port in eastern Sudan. They will be loaded with WFP food and then driven more than 2,600 kilometres to the western region of Darfur on the other side of Africa's largest country.
On average, a truck loaded with food takes more than three weeks to reach Darfur from Port Sudan. The June-September rainy season is causing transport problems as swollen wadis cut roads and ordinary trucks get bogged down in mud. Poor sanitation and dirty drinking water will heighten the threat posed by water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
In Darfur, the trucks will be used to ferry food to some of the more than one million people displaced by fighting between rebels and pro-Government militiamen engaged in a vicious campaign of rape, banditry and looting.
"These vehicles will allow us to get food overland to people who would otherwise be completely cut off by the rains," said WFP Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva. "In addition, we are getting ready to start dropping food from aircraft into places we can't reach because of the rains, which last until September."
"But it's still far from enough to reach everyone in need," Lopes da Silva added. "We need more food and money to buy sorghum within Sudan, as soon as possible or many more lives will be lost."
WFP is urgently requesting donors to help fund its operations to relieve the suffering in Darfur. To date, WFP has received just US$68.5 out of US$195 million required for the Darfur emergency in 2004, meaning that WFP still has little more than one-third of the funding that it needs to reach up to two million people.
To bolster its commercial fleet of trucks serving the states of North, South and West Darfur, WFP is in the process of leasing 200 trucks. A MI-8 helicopter arrived in Khartoum last week to move WFP teams preparing for the air drops from an Ilyushin transport plane.
In the month up to 26 July, a number of WFP's Non-Governmental Organisation partners had distributed a total of 8,460 tonnes of WFP food to 523,415 people in the three Darfur states. WFP had hoped to reach one million people in the region in July, after feeding a total of 650,000 people in June.
Major reasons for the shortfall are insecurity cutting off sites where internally-displaced people have sought refuge from attacks, a weak food supply line into Sudan because of a shortage of contributions, overstretched transport capacity and not enough staff and vehicles at WFP's sub-offices in Darfur although the organisation is increasing its capacity daily. WFP's NGO partners have similar problems.
Compounding these are large population movements as a result of fighting and attacks.
WFP is also grappling with shortages of jet fuel for its fleet of aircraft ferrying food into the three state capitals in Darfur. There is also limited apron space on which to park planes.
A large number of donors who have begun to contribute to WFP's food emergency operation for the war-affected in the Darfur region include the United States (US$46 million), the European Commission (US$4.6 million), the United Kingdom (US$3 million), Canada (US$2.9 million), Australia (US$1.4 million), Denmark (US$1.3 million), France (US$1.2 million), Belgium (US$1.2 million), Ireland (US$1.2 million), Germany (US$1.2 million), Spain (US$1.1 million), Norway (US$900,000), New Zealand (US$600,000), Finland (US$600,000), the Netherlands (US$600,000), Switzerland (US$400,000) and Luxembourg (US$100,000).
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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