A rash of banditry is threatening food supplies to more than two million people in Darfur, raising the possibility that rations will have to be cut, the World Food Programme said today.
If the situation continues, we'll be forced to cut rations in parts of Darfur by mid-February
WFP Representative Kenro Oshidari
So far this year, bandits have stolen 23 WFP-contracted trucks and abducted their drivers – 19 drivers are still missing.
"We're extremely worried about the impact on the vulnerable people of Darfur,” said WFP Representative Kenro Oshidari, adding that WFP was also concerned about the fate of the missing drivers.
Upsurge in banditry
“Our main trucking companies now refuse to send in more vehicles because of this upsurge in banditry and therefore we have no one to deliver about half our monthly food relief requirement. If the situation continues, we'll be forced to cut rations in parts of Darfur by mid-February," Oshidari said.
Attacks on trucks carrying WFP supplies, abductions of drivers and trucks, looting of WFP supplies and drivers' personal property and beatings of WFP-contracted drivers to intimidate them have increased in recent months. WFP is urging Sudanese authorities to ensure the safety of main routes in Darfur.
From September to December 2007, a total of 13 WFP contract trucks were stolen or attacked. Of these, three drivers were killed, three drivers escaped and a further seven drivers were released. All but three of the trucks have been recovered.
In December, WFP fed 2.1 million conflict-affected people in Darfur, most of them internally displaced people in camps. A total of 106,000 vulnerable people could not be reached with food assistance in December because of insecurity.
Some 40,000 metric tons of food is needed to feed Darfur's most vulnerable people each month. The transport companies currently refusing to send their trucks back into Darfur normally deliver between 15,000 and 20,000 tons per month.
"Without these deliveries, WFP faces a rapid depletion of stocks and the inability to pre-position food ahead of the rainy season, which is due to start in May," Oshidari said.
WFP is working out what form ration cuts might take, where, and how many people would be affected if the banditry continues.
Trucks replaced airdrops
In 2008, WFP plans to feed up to 5.6 million people in Sudan on a budget of US$697 million. Air drops, which cost four times as much as road deliveries, were phased out in Darfur in 2005 and a massive trucking operation was put in place to deliver food efficiently throughout the region.
The monthly food ration in Darfur includes cereals, high-nutrition corn-soya blend, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt and provides a total of 2,100 kilocalories per person per day.