WFP Executive Director James Morris warned today that a shortage of steady and timely funding for food aid to Sudan risked increasing malnutrition among millions of people and threatened pacts to end conflicts in the South and western region of Darfur.
We must give everyone the minimum that they need. Not to do so is a terrible betrayal
James Morris, WFP Executive Director
Speaking after a five-day visit to Khartoum, the South, the East and Darfur, Morris said he was struck by how much the humanitarian operation in Sudan was saving and rebuilding lives, but it needed a constant flow of resources to avoid harmful breakdowns in the supply of food and other humanitarian aid.
“I met people torn from their homes by violence in three different parts of Africa’s largest country: families in Darfur driven from their homes by violence since February 2003 that hasn’t stopped; the displaced of the East who fled Hamesh Koreib in the 1990s and as recently as 2002; and a huge cause for hope – returnees to the south who are now flooding home after 21 years of civil war,” said Morris.
Largest WFP operation
“They fled different conflicts, at different times, in different areas. But they all desperately need our help so that, as the returnees to the south are proving, one day they will finally get home and start rebuilding their lives. With our help, they can support themselves and build for the future,” he said.
“We aim to help 6.1 million people in Sudan in 2006, but we are falling short at times and in places. We must reach people in Darfur cut off from WFP rations this year because of insecurity. We must give everyone the minimum that they need. Not to do so is a terrible betrayal,” he said.
Sudan is WFP’s largest operation in the world. But in May, a critical shortage of funds forced WFP to take what Morris described as “one of the hardest decisions of my life” and cut rations to half in terms of energy content for two million people in Darfur and the East.
Plan ahead for supply breaks
A series of new donations including 20,000 metric tons of sorghum from the Government of Sudan, meant that by the end of May, WFP announced that rations would be increased to 85 percent of the full amount from June to September in the Darfur states. The earliest full rations can be restored is October.
“We are extremely grateful to those donors who stepped in at the last minute,” said Morris.
“But in Sudan it takes up to six months for a confirmed contribution to materialise as food in the hands of people in Sudan. We know this, and we must all plan ahead for it to end these breaks in the supply.”
Overcoming a shortfall
As of 5 June, WFP’s emergency operation in Sudan, with a budget of US$746 million, was only 49.6 percent funded.
To ensure a consistent supply of food for full rations throughout the year, the operation should have received close to US$600 million, or 80 percent of the total required by the start of April.
“It is critical that we all plan ahead and that contributions, preferably cash, are given now to ensure a consistent supply of food for all 6.1 million of the most vulnerable people in Sudan to the end of 2006.
"And more importantly, to avoid a similar problem occurring in the early months of 2007,” Morris said.
By the first quarter of 2007, WFP needs to have a six-month supply of food reaching Sudan to provide rations for the first three months of the year as well as to pre-position another three-month supply before the rainy season starts in June, when many roads will become impassable.
“We were forced to use internal loans this year,” Morris said.
“But we can avoid this if we all plan ahead and cover these foreseeable gaps before they reverse all the progress we have made in curbing malnutrition last year and threaten to undermine any hope of peace because of competition over basic resources,” he said.
Displaced by fighting
In Darfur, Morris on Tuesday visited the town of Habilah where WFP feeds 11,500 displaced people and 5,500 original residents affected by the conflict.
WFP provides food for 145,000 people in the Habilah area near the border with Chad.
Fighting between government and rebel groups in Chad led to an influx of new arrivals in the area in March – 5,000 Chadian refugees and 5,000 Sudanese returnees.
Earlier on Tuesday, he opened a conference in Khartoum to chart a comprehensive strategy for food aid in Sudan to 2011.
Today, the head of WFP held talks in Khartoum with the UN Special Representative to Sudan Jan Pronk.
In the Eastern State of Kassala, Morris visited an adult learning centre for women.
He also went to an internally displaced camp where WFP last week distributed the first monthly rations since March due to a lack of access by UN agencies to IDP and refugee camps.
Camp residents told him how much they welcomed the resumption of WFP’s food aid deliveries, on which they were heavily reliant.
On Sunday, Morris flew to the southern capital of Juba for talks after visiting a returnee village near the town of Rumbek.
There he met “One O’clock,” a three-year-old boy named after the time when he was found two years ago by a woman, as he hid in tall grass following an attack by gunmen on returnees.
His parents were never seen again so Noura Sawa Abu rescued him and raised him as one of her own.
Morris also toured one of four schools being built in the Rumbek area in a project led by WFP, financed by US$331,000 from the Government of the Netherlands and implemented with the assistance of WFP’s partner UN agencies and NGOs.
The school for 435 girls should be completed in September.
Morris was deeply impressed by the extraordinary partnership the building of the school represents.