7 September 2008 With relentless attacks on truck convoys carrying much-needed food relief in Darfur, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it might be forced to shut down its operations which feed over three million every month in the vast and impoverished region on Sudan's western flank.
Yesterday, the agency recovered three hijacked trucks and four fleet staff after the latest attack in South Darfur, but nearly 70 trucks and 43 drives are still missing.
Since the start of the year, over 100 vehicles carrying WFP food aid have been hijacked in Darfur, with many more shot at and robbed. Drivers are now refusing to travel on certain routes, leading to a marked slowdown in the delivery of food to those who need assistsance.
“Repeated and targeted attacks on food convoys are making it extraordinarily difficult and dangerous for us to feed hungry people,” said Monika Midel, the agency's Deputy Representative in Sudan, adding that WFP is deeply concerned that the welfare and lives of its personnel are at increased risk.
“Should these attacks continue, the situation will become intolerable – to the point that we will have to suspend operations in some areas of Darfur.”
Today's WFP warning comes on the heels of the 27 August decision of the non-governmental organization German Agro Action (GAA) to cancel food distribution to 450,000 people in North Darfur because of insecurity.
WFP began scaling back its rations in May when trucks could no longer deliver enough food due to the deteriorating security situation, affecting three million people. In July, nearly 50,000 people in need of aid could not be reached because of the attacks on convoys.
September is the 'hunger gap' period when the rural population typically runs out of food from last year's harvest.
“We urge other groups who have seized trucks and drivers to release them, unharmed. At stake are thousands of people in Darfur, who are reliant on the food lifeline the relief truck convoys provice,” Ms. Midel stated.
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