Hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur have gone hungry for three consecutive months because fighting and banditry have prevented the WFP from reaching them, announced Kenro Oshidari, WFP’s Representative in Sudan.
Hunger exacerbates the already precarious security situation. It will add fuel to the fire
Kenro Oshidari, WFP’s Representative in Sudan
Quoting figures released today, Oshidari said that insecurity has cut off 355,000 people from food aid in August – all of them in North Darfur.
Their situation is reaching a critical stage because the area has experienced a sharp increase in tensions since May when the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed.
“Most of these people have now gone three entire months without our help. Their situation is even more desperate because we’re in the middle of the ‘hunger season’ - the period right before the harvest – so they have very little chance of finding food elsewhere,” Oshidari said.
In July, WFP was blocked from delivering food to 470,000 war-affected people: 355,000 in North Darfur and almost 120,000 in South Darfur.
In August, WFP was able to reach the people in South Darfur, thanks to careful daily security monitoring and diligent work by field staff – but large parts of North Darfur remained cut off from food aid.
Precarious security situation
“Without food aid, things will become more volatile. Hunger exacerbates the already precarious security situation. It will add fuel to the fire,” Oshidari said. “Food aid is vital to stability.”
In recent weeks, WFP and other aid groups have been warning that Darfur region is reaching a critical state.
Nearly three million people in Darfur depend on international aid for food, shelter and medical treatment, but rising insecurityin many parts of the region has made it more difficult for aid workers to reach them.
Aid workers targeted
Twelve humanitarian workers have been killed in Darfur since May – more than the total number since the conflict began in early 2003.
The obstacles aren’t only physical – they’re also financial. WFP was forced to cut Darfur rations by 50 percent in May, so that it would have enough food to last through the current rainy season.
It was able raise the ration level back up to 85 percent in June after some donor nations responded swiftly.
Meanwhile, WFP’s beneficiary caseload has increased. In August, WFP took over responsibility from the International Committee of the Red Cross for feeding 130,000 people in Gereida, the world’s largest camp for internally displaced people, in South Darfur.
The total number of people WFP fed in August, including Gereida, was 2.6 million.
This year it will cost US$746 million to run WFP’s emergency operation to feed a total of 6.1 million people in Sudan, which includes Darfur, Southern Sudan, and the Central, East and Three Areas (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile). But so far, only US$584 million or 78 percent has been received.
At that funding level, WFP will only be able to continue feeding people in Darfur at the reduced ration amount until the end of the year.
If more funds don’t arrive soon, WFP’s coffers – the stomachs of thousands – will be empty come January.
In total, WFP is calling for US$350 million: US$162 million to cover the remainder of the current emergency plan, and the rest so that WFP can pre-position stocks ahead of next year’s rainy season.
Commitment needed now
“It takes up to six months, once we get a donation, for the food to reach the people in the field. If we don’t convince donors to commit now, we could be facing more dramatic ration cuts in the future,” Oshidari said.
Across the border in eastern Chad, WFP is also concerned about the number of people who fled violence in Darfur.
WFP is delivering monthly general food ration distributions for 212,200 Sudanese spread amongst a dozen camps.
The situation remains volatile along the Chad-Sudan border, with repeated thefts and attacks on humanitarian staff in recent weeks.