Youssef, directing WFP trucks in the middle of the desert- outside of Abéché. Copyright: WFP/ Rodolfo Losada
After the suspension of the Libyan corridor from Benghazi, Libya, to Abéché, Chad, WFP had to find another way to transport food to more than one million Sudanese refugees, Chadian IDPs and members of the host population who depend on WFP's assistance in Eastern Chad.
ABECHE, CHAD- Early in the morning on April 3rd, the first trucks start to arrive as the sun rises over the WFP logistics depot. Throughout the day, 152 trucks will arrive with 6,000 tonnes of wheat destined for WFP’s Emergency Operation in Eastern Chad, which assists Sudanese refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and affected host populations.
A few kilometres away, at a fork in the desert road that marks the entrance of Abéché, a WFP flag is tied to a tree. Next to it stands Youssef, a young Sudanese driver’s mate who is responsible, during this last stage of the journey, for directing the trucks onto a by-pass road towards the WFP logistics depot.
“The drivers are tired, and there is the risk that they will continue to the centre of Abéché, getting caught in the traffic,” Youssef explains. “I think that for most of them this is the first time they have ever been to Chad.”
Due to the political turmoil in Libya, Chad’s northern neighbour, WFP was forced to close the logistics corridor through which it previously transported food from the port in Benghazi overland to Abéché and north-eastern Chad. This disruption threatened to pose serious risks to the food security of more than one million beneficiaries in eastern Chad who depend on WFP’s assistance.
Even under normal conditions, bringing food into Chad, a land-locked country, is quite a challenge, especially as food must arrive before the start of the rainy season in June. It can take four to six months for commodities to arrive after their purchase; transport infrastructure is often poor or non-existing in some of the harshest desert terrain in the world; and there is a constant fear of insecurity caused by anti-government rebels or bandits. As two ships made their way toward Benghazi at the end of February carrying food for beneficiaries in eastern Chad, WFP faced an additional challenge as the political situation in Libya began to intensify, making overland transport impossible.
A globally-coordinated decision was made to reroute both ships through the Suez Canal to Port Sudan. Upon arrival in Sudan, WFP opened a new logistics corridor that reached 3,000 km across Sudan, through the tumultuous region of Darfur and across a border that had, until only recently, been closed due to rebel activity.
Although part of the Sudanese corridor was used in 2007 to bring in borrowed commodities from El Geneina, Darfur, the complete Port Sudan-Chad logistics corridor had not been used since 2001 due to insecurity in Darfur and rebel activity on both sides of the Sudanese-Chadian border.
Trucks arriving at the WFP “Biltine” Logistics base, Abéché- eastern Chad. Copyright: WFP/ Rodolfo Losada
One month after loading their cargo in Port Sudan, the first convoy of trucks arrived in Abéché. The convoy met many delays on their travels, on dirt roads, at border customs and when waiting for a military escort at El Obeid, Sudan, to cross Darfur.
“It has been a very long and tiring trip, taking close to a month,” said Mohammed Osma, the Sudanese Convoy Leader and an experienced trucker whose company is often chartered by WFP. “The fact that the border between Chad and Sudan is open is proof that we will have lasting peace in this region, Alhamdulillah.”
Now that the wheat has arrived in Abéché, it will be transferred to local transporters for delivery to refugee camps, IDPs camps and host villages in the eastern Chadian regions of Sila, Ouaddai, Wadi-Fira, northern Salamat and southern Ennedi.
A second convoy carrying almost 3,500 tonnes of sorghum and over 1,000 tonnes of yellow split peas is expected to arrive in Abéché in the second half of April.
Transhipment of commodities from Sudanese to Chadian hauliers, who will then distribute commodities to final distribution points. Copyright: WFP/ Rodolfo Losada