KHARTOUM - The United Nations World Food Programme began airlifting food today from a Libyan airport directly into western Sudan's Darfur region, pioneering a new route to move as much food aid as possible to nearly two million people during the rainy season.
On Saturday, an Ilyushin-76 aircraft took off from Al Kufra in southeast Libya with 30 metric tons of cereals and later landed in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. It was the first flight taking food aid via Libya direct to Darfur and followed the opening up last year of an ancient caravan route overland for convoys of WFP food aid to travel from Libya to refugee camps in Chad.
Using this new air corridor, WFP will be able to deliver an extra 5,000 metric tons of food each month to Darfur over the next three months in preparation for the rainy season - a period when many roads become impassable in Darfur and food needs peak.
"The extra capacity using the Al Kufra airlift will be a tremendous help during the approaching rainy season and concurrent period of greatest food shortages," said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, WFP Representative in Sudan and Country Director. "We are looking at a worst-case scenario of more than three million people needing food assistance in Darfur from August."
WFP's logistics capacity to reach people uprooted by two years of conflict in Darfur has been boosted since April by the overland transport of food from Abéché in Chad to El-Geneina in West Darfur. So far 400 tons of sorghum have been delivered along this route.
Both the overland route from Chad—with the potential of providing an additional 5,000 tons of food per month—and the new air corridor will greatly augment WFP's existing monthly delivery capability of up to 50,000 tons using road, rail and air transport within Sudan.
WFP has so far received US$286 million of the US$467 million it requires to feed an average of 2.3 million people each month in Darfur in 2005, leaving a 39 percent shortfall.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.
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