Food convoy attacks undermining WFP work in Darfur

Published on 25 July 2007

WFP has condemned the dramatic escalation in attacks on humanitarian staff and food convoys in Darfur, which are hampering WFP’s ability to deliver assistance to millions of hungry people in the strife-torn region of Sudan.

WFP has condemned the dramatic escalation in attacks on humanitarian staff and food convoys in Darfur, which are hampering WFP’s ability to deliver assistance to millions of

WFP staff and contractors are being stopped at gunpoint, dragged out of their vehicles and robbed with alarming frequency
Kenro Oshidari, WFP Sudan Representative

hungry people in the strife-torn region of Sudan.

“In the last two weeks, nine food convoys have been attacked by gunmen across Darfur,” said Kenro Oshidari, WFP Sudan Representative.

“WFP staff and contractors are being stopped at gunpoint, dragged out of their vehicles and robbed with alarming frequency,” he said.

"Abhorrent attacks"

Oshidari called on all parties to the conflict in Darfur to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers so that the UN food agency and other aid organisations can continue with their life-saving work.

“These abhorrent attacks, which target the very people who are trying to help the most vulnerable in Darfur, must be brought under control,” he added.

So far this year, 18 WFP food convoys have been attacked by gunmen and four of WFP’s light vehicles carjacked. Six WFP vehicles, including trucks and light vehicles, have been stolen and 10 staff, including contractors, have been either detained or abducted.

Biggest operation

The Darfur operation is WFP’s biggest, employing some 790 staff who feed more than two million people every month. WFP also contracts commercial truck companies to haul food into the region.

This year the agency plans to distribute up to 450,000 metric tons of food in Darfur at a cost of about half a billion dollars.

Due to a lack of security, WFP was not able to reach 170,000 people in June, a sizeable increase from the lowest point last March when 60,000 could not be reached. As a result of convoy attacks in recent weeks, the road between Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, and the town of Kass, has been declared a “no-go” area for UN staff.

Number one security concern

In north Darfur, food dispatches to the town of Kabkabiya have been affected. UN security personnel say attacks on vehicles are now the number one security concern for the aid community in Darfur.

A recent and deeply troubling trend is that staff are being abducted when their vehicles are stolen, giving robbers time to get away before the alarm is raised. To date, all WFP staff have been released, although some were injured and hospitalized.