28 April 2006 Despite the horrific suffering of more than 6 million vulnerable people across Sudan, a huge shortfall in requested funds has forced the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to make drastic cuts in food rations as from May, the agency announced today.
“This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Haven’t the people of Darfur suffered enough? Aren’t we adding insult to injury?” WFP Executive Director James Morris said, referring to the western region where 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million others uprooted in three years of fighting between the Government, pro-government militias and rebels.
Despite repeated appeals to donors, WFP has received just $238 million, or 32 per cent, of the $746 million needed. By slashing daily rations to as little as 1,050 kilocalories, half the minimum daily requirement, WFP’s limited food stocks will last longer during the ‘hunger season,’ the annual period from July to September when needs are the greatest before the next harvest.
“It's so hard to understand this funding shortfall because last year [overall] official development assistance climbed all the way to $107 billion - double what it was just a few years ago,” Mr. Morris said. “Donors are being incredibly generous - but they are not putting victims of humanitarian crises like Darfur first on their list.
“Food must come first - we cannot put families who have lost their homes and loved ones to violence on a 1,000 calorie a day diet. But we have been pushed into this last resort of ration cuts in Sudan so we can provide the needy with at least some food during the lean season. This is a measure we should simply never have to take.”
Although WFP is particularly concerned about the effect of reduced rations in Darfur, where rampant insecurity continues to cause enormous suffering, the cuts will affect 6.1 million people overall in Africa’s largest country this year, including the South, Central, and East.
“What is deeply disturbing is that these funding shortages threaten the gains made last year by humanitarian agencies in Darfur, where malnutrition levels went down by half. We were making great progress,” Mr. Morris said.
South Sudan, where some 4.5 million people displaced by a two-decade-long civil war that ended in January 2005 are expected to begin returning to their homes, will be less affected by the cuts because people are able to grow at least part of the food they need. But the East, where WFP assists Eritrean refugees and displaced families, faces a situation similar to that in Darfur.
“Throughout this critical year for Sudan, when peace must be allowed to take hold, WFP urgently needs donors to come forward so that we can guarantee food aid to the millions of Sudanese who so desperately need our help,” Mr. Morris said.