WFP Executive Director, James Morris, arrives in Khartoum today to visit the agency’s largest emergency operation, which was hit recently by a severe shortage of funds to feed some 6.1 million people across Sudan.
After meetings with government ministers in the capital on Saturday, Morris will fly to South Sudan, where WFP feeds hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese returning home after 21 years of war.
The challenges in Sudan are huge, but particularly this year.
James Morris, WFP Executive Director
He flies on to the underdeveloped eastern state of Kassala on Monday, then returns to Khartoum to open a conference on Tuesday which will chart food aid strategies in Sudan over the next five years.
The mission concludes in Khartoum after his visit to troubled West Darfur, bordering Chad, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The challenges in Sudan are huge, but particularly this year. It is vital that donors come forward now – especially in the light of last year’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the civil war and the recent Darfur Peace Agreement,” Morris said.
Morris plans talks with high-level officials of the Government of National Unity and Government of South Sudan.
The war displaced more than four million southern Sudanese inside the country and another 600,000 are scattered in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
Biggest migration in the world
If the majority return this year and next – as expected – it will be by far the biggest migration of people underway at this time in the world.
The flow of internally displaced to the south includes thousands of people fleeing violence in Darfur.
In May, a critical shortage of funds forced WFP to distribute half rations, in terms of energy content, to three million people in Darfur and the East.
Cash still needed
On 29 May, the agency announced that new donations, including 20,000 tons of sorghum from the Government of Sudan, meant that rations would be increased to 84 percent of the norm from June to September in Darfur.
As of 1 June, WFP’s emergency operation in Sudan, with a budget of US$746 million, was 49.5% funded and contributions, especially cash, are needed to end ration cuts and cover requirements for the last quarter of 2006 and into 2007.
“We have managed, using trucks and barges, to pre-position food in the south, ahead of the rains. That is significant because we can ensure the most vulnerable people have food during the difficult rainy season months, starting in June,” Morris said.
“But this in no way diminishes our very strong need for contributions, preferably in cash, to meet the enormous demands of millions of people across Africa’s largest country.”
Giant warehouse network
Using routes which were impossible during the civil war, WFP has moved 800 trucks across former battle lines from Port Sudan in the north-east to the South to pre-position supplies before the June to September rainy season.
Food has also been loaded onto barges and floated south along the White Nile.
A total of 39,000 metric tons of food has been pre-positioned in the South – crucial during the rains when many remote communities are cut off.
In the south, WFP has created a giant network of warehouses. Since January, 65 of these donated by Norway, have been erected. Seven more are now being set up. The roll out of warehouses means that WFP has been able to reduce its use of expensive airdrops to just 20 percent of all food aid needed in the south.
Food for resident communities
The food assistance is not only for the returnees trekking back home, it will also be distributed to resident communities, suffering from chronic food shortages.
With at least four months before the next harvest, many households are already running out of food and high levels of malnutrition are reported.
In the period before the October harvest, WFP plans to feed two million people each month in the south, including some 450,000 returnees.
Returnees receive a two-week ration for their often gruelling journey and another three months of food once they finally reach their home villages.
But the plans will be jeopardized unless enough funds are received to maintain the supply of food.
Switch to roads
WFP’s project to rebuild 3,000 kilometres of roads destroyed during the war has made the switch to roads possible.
“This is a true peace dividend for the south because it revives trade and transport for everyone,” said Morris.
However, the third and final phase of the project has a funding shortfall of US$66.5 million.