Sudan again faces food ration cuts: will Darfur be put back on a diet?

Published on 16 August 2006

WFP has urged the international community to help end the misery in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where almost half a million people are now cut off from emergency food aid because of fighting and attacks.

WFP has urged the international community to help end the misery in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where almost half a million people are now cut off from emergency food aid because of fighting and attacks.

In addition, WFP warned that food aid rations for six million

As we continue to press for peace in Darfur, we must ensure that food aid gets to millions of hungry people trapped by the violence
Kenro Oshidari WFP Sudan Representative

people in Sudan might have to be scaled down as early as October because food stocks are running short, forcing the agency to put beneficiaries on a reduced calorie diet – below the 2,100 kilocalorie daily minimum requirement.

WFP was forced to cut rations by 50 percent in May, but in June was able to raise them back to 84 percent in Darfur, after major donations were secured.

To avoid another round of ration cuts and cover Sudan’s food aid requirements for the first three months of 2007, WFP requires an estimated US$350 million.

The money would also be used to pre-position another four months’ worth of food for next year’s rainy season when remote areas will be inaccessible by road.

Food running out

As it takes up to six months for donations to be converted into food and transported to hungry people, WFP says the money is needed now.

At the current rate of consumption, WFP will run out of food for Sudan by January, which would be a humanitarian disaster. Ration cuts would be imposed before that happened, but only as a last resort.

WFP’s emergency operation in Sudan set out to feed 6.1 million people in 2006 in Darfur, the south and the central, east and Three Areas (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile).

Appeal

With other humanitarian emergencies grabbing the international spotlight, WFP Sudan Representative Kenro Oshidari appealed to the international community to remember the continued violence and suffering in Darfur despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May.

“While the news cameras are focused on the conflict in Lebanon, the situation in Sudan has quietly grown more dangerous and desperate than ever,” said Oshidari.

“As we continue to press for peace in Darfur, we must ensure that food aid gets to millions of hungry people trapped by the violence.”

But funding is not the only problem. The deteriorating security situation in Sudan’s troubled western region has made it too dangerous for truck convoys to drive through large areas in north and south Darfur, where fresh outbreaks of fighting and banditry have occurred.

Rise in aid worker killings

Specifically, in July WFP was unable to get food to more than 470,000 people in Darfur, up from 290,000 who could not be reached in June.

In the meantime, high malnutrition rates have been reported in recent months. Oshidari said he was extremely concerned about the recent dramatic increase in the killing of aid workers in Darfur.

Eleven humanitarian workers have died in the region since the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed.

“The safety of staff is crucial and we take great precautions to avoid dangerous situations. It would be a disaster for the people of Darfur if security deteriorated to the point where we were unable to deliver more widely,” Oshidari said.

In southern Sudan, widespread food insecurity persists more than a year after the civil war with the north came to an end.

Distribution reorganisation

WFP has reorganised the way food is distributed in the south. To cut costs, the agency has shifted from a predominantly airdrop operation to using roads.

Before the rainy season began, WFP pre-positioned 39,000 tons of food aid across the south, cutting the amount airdropped this year to just 20 percent of the total distributed.

But without fresh donations now, WFP could be forced to go back to costly airdrops next year.