WFP condemns attack on food aid convoy in eastern Chad

Published on 02 January 2007

WFP has condemned a kidnapping and armed attack on a WFP-contracted convoy in Eastern Chad early on Sunday (28 January).

WFP has condemned a kidnapping and armed attack on a WFP-contracted convoy in Eastern Chad early on Sunday (28 January).

We call on all factions in Eastern Chad, and urge the Chadian government to do its best to guarantee the safety of aid convoys and drivers

Naila Sabra, Regional Director for WFP in the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe

According to the Libyan company which leased the trucks to WFP, unknown gunmen attacked the convoy of 48 empty vehicles as it was returning from Eastern Chad to Khufra, South Libya, over the weekend.

The convoy had delivered food assistance to some 220,000 people living in refugee camps in Eastern Chad.

The driver was safely released today, together with his truck, after his four day ordeal which began when the gunmen stole personal belongings including satellite phones, watches, clothes and other valuables from all the drivers.

Third armed attack

The booty was apparently transferred onto one of the trucks and taken away, along with its driver.

This is the third armed attack on WFP aid convoys in Eastern Chad in the past two months.

The convoy was stopped 70 kilometres north of Bahai, Northeast Chad, in an area about 600 kms from the Libyan border and a few kilometres after the point where the Chadian army escort left the convoy, as the remaining leg of the journey is deep in the desert, where a criminal incident is less likely to occur.

Drivers lives endangered

The company which provides trucks for WFP to send food aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, to Eastern Chad informed WFP that it was freezing the movement of shipments on this route until all 48 trucks were returned.

Another 33-truck convoy carrying 850 tons of wheat for the refugees has been in Owainat, 400 kms south of Khufra, the company said, waiting to cross into Chad until the attacked convoy was returned.

“We do not know the identity of the attackers but this is making our work extremely difficult, endangering the life of courageous drivers and delaying food shipments for tens of thousands of extremely vulnerable people,” said Amir Ismail, in charge of WFP logistics in Libya.

Libyan corridor

“We call on all factions in Eastern Chad, and urge the Chadian government to do its best to guarantee the safety of aid convoys and drivers,” said Naila Sabra, Regional Director for WFP in the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Using Libyan ports and roads as an entry point to Chad – and even to Darfur at one stage – has been a major success story for WFP.

“Many people in Darfur and Chad would have been unable to receive food assistance that we now move through Libya had it not been for this corridor,” said Sabra.

The journey overland exceeds 2,800 kms and takes several weeks to complete. Early in January one driver with a WFP-contracted truck was shot but his life was saved after he was medically evacuated by plane.

In 2006, WFP shipped about 37,000 tons of food aid through Libya to Chad and Darfur.