Fighting in Darfur cuts hundreds of thousands of Sudanese off from aid

Hundreds of thousands of people in the volatile Darfur region of Sudan have gone hungry for three consecutive months because fighting and banditry have prevented the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from reaching them, the agency’s representative to the country said today.Quoting figures released today, Kenro Oshidari said that insecurity has cut off 355,000 people from food aid in August, all of them in North Darfur. Their situation is reaching a critical stage because the area has experienced a sharp increase in tensions since May when the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed, he warned.“Most of these people have now gone three entire months without our help. Their situation is even more desperate because we’re in the middle of the ‘hunger season’ – the period right before the harvest – so they have very little chance of finding food elsewhere,” he said.In July, WFP was blocked from delivering food to 470,000 war-affected people: 355,000 in North Darfur and almost 120,000 in South Darfur. In August, WFP was able to reach the people in South Darfur, thanks to careful daily security monitoring and diligent work by field staff, but large parts of North Darfur remained cut off from food aid.“Without food aid, things will become more volatile. Hunger exacerbates the already precarious security situation. It will add fuel to the fire,” Mr. Oshidari cautioned. “Food aid is vital to stability.”In recent weeks, WFP and other aid groups have been warning that Darfur region is reaching a critical state. Nearly 3 million people there depend on international aid for food, shelter and medical treatment, but rising insecurity in many parts of the region has made it more difficult for aid workers to reach them. Twelve humanitarian workers have been killed in Darfur since May – more than the total number since the conflict began in early 2003.The obstacles are not only physical; they are also financial. The agency was forced to cut Darfur rations by 50 percent in May so that it would have enough food to last through the current rainy season. It was able raise the ration level back up to 85 per cent in June after some donor nations responded swiftly.At current funding levels, WFP said it will only be able to continue feeding people in Darfur at the reduced ration amount until the end of the year. “It takes up to six months, once we get a donation, for the food to reach the people in the field. If we don’t convince donors to commit now, we could be facing more dramatic ration cuts in the future,” Mr. Oshidari said. read more