UN food relief agency deplores latest kidnapping in eastern Chad
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has condemned the weekend kidnapping of a driver of a WFP-contracted convoy in eastern Chad, the third such armed attack on an aid convoy in the area in the past two months.
The driver was released safely today, along with his truck, according to a statement issued by the WFP, which has been providing relief services in eastern Chad to refugees from the conflict in the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan.
WFP warned that food shipments to tens of thousands of vulnerable refugees could be placed in jeopardy because of the repeated attacks.
“Many people in Darfur and Chad would have been unable to receive food assistance that we now move through Libya had it not been for this corridor,” said Naila Sabra, WFP Regional Director in the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Last year WFP delivered an estimated 37,000 tons of food aid through Libya to Chad and Darfur, opening up a new route to reach a relatively inaccessible area. The journey overland through Libya takes several weeks to complete.
Ms Nabra added: “We call on all factions in eastern Chad, and urge the Chadian Government to do its best to guarantee the safety of aid convoys and drivers.”
In the latest attack, unknown gunmen halted the convoy of 48 vehicles early on Sunday as it was returning from eastern Chad to the southern Libyan town of Khufra after transporting aid supplies. The gunmen struck about 70 kilometres north of Bahai, and just a few kilometres after the point where a Chadian army escort left the convoy.
The attackers stole personal belongings from the drivers, including satellite telephones, watches, items of clothing and other valuables, and transferred the booty on to one of the trucks, along with the kidnapped driver.
The Libyan company that provides trucks to WFP for this service has told the UN programme that it is suspending operations on the route into southern Libya until all 48 trucks are returned. Another convoy carrying 850 tons of wheat is in the town of Owainat, waiting to make the journey south.