Surge of bandit attacks jeopardizes food rations to Darfur – UN agency
Food rations to more than 2 million people in Darfur may have to be cut within weeks after a surge of bandit attacks this month against trucks carrying relief supplies to the war-wracked Sudanese region, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
Bandits have stolen 23 WFP-contracted trucks and abducted their drivers since the start of the month, the agency said in a statement issued in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Nineteen drivers remain missing.
The latest attack occurred late yesterday, in a rural area of North Darfur near the Chadian border. The driver of the empty truck was attacked as he returned to El Fasher, the state capital, after making the day’s deliveries.
Even before the spike in attacks this year, bandits have been targeting trucks carrying aid, with 13 such incidents – including three in which the drivers were killed – between September and December last year.
WFP’s representative in Sudan, Kenro Oshidari, said there were grave concerns about both the impact of the rash of attacks on the civilian population of Darfur, already suffering from years of conflict, and the fate of the missing drivers.
“Our main trucking companies now refuse to send in more vehicles because of this upsurge in banditry and therefore we have no one to deliver about half our monthly food relief requirement,” Mr. Oshidari said.
“If the situation continues, we’ll be forced to cut rations in parts of Darfur by mid-February.”
The contracted trucks normally deliver between 15,000 and 20,000 tons of food aid every month, about half of the total needed to support Darfur’s most vulnerable inhabitants. The monthly food ration includes cereals, high-nutrition corn-soya blend, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt and provides a person with 2,100 kilocalories per day.
Mr. Oshidari urged Sudanese authorities to ensure the safety of the major routes in Darfur, a vast, arid region in the far west of the country.
“Without these deliveries, WFP faces a rapid depletion of stocks and the inability to pre-position food ahead of the rainy season, which is due to start in May.”
In a related development, a UN-Sudanese Government committee agreed today to extend the moratorium on restrictions on humanitarian operations until January 2009.
“The Government gave assurances that the NGO [non-governmental organizations] community would be able to continue their work without interruption and would facilitate resources at state level for the extension of visas,” the High Level Committee of Sudanese Government and UN officials established by the Joint Communiqué on the facilitation of humanitarian activities in Darfur said in a statement.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also welcomed the news, noting that the NGOs implement numerous UN projects in Darfur, where rebels have clashed with Government forces and allied militia groups since 2003.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others displaced because of the violence, and a joint UN-African Union mission known as UNAMID is being deployed to quell the fighting and instability.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who is currently visiting Sudan, today met with UNAMID staff in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state. He also conferred with the state’s deputy governor and with representatives of civil society.
Yesterday Mr. Guéhenno was in El Fasher for a meeting with the deputy governor of North Darfur. He also visited the nearby Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).