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Renewed clashes in Darfur threaten long-term food security in Sudan – UN agency

A group refugees at Tissi, southeast Chad, who fled recent fighting in Darfur.
A group refugees at Tissi, southeast Chad, who fled recent fighting in Darfur.

Renewed clashes in Darfur threaten long-term food security in Sudan – UN agency

The new wave of violence in Sudan’s Darfur region is threatening the ability of humanitarian organizations to assist the population and putting at risk long-term food security, the United Nations food relief agency said today.

“We are deeply concerned with the developing situation which threatens fragile food security in this region,” said the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Sudan Country Director, Adnan Khan.

“This is the season when people should be planting and working on farms but instead they are fleeing their villages, a significant number of them have even fled to the refugee camps in neighbouring Chad.”

The renewed violence in Darfur after a decade-long conflict has prompted more than 250,000 people to flee their villages and abandon their livelihoods since the start of the year, and the inter-tribal clashes have strained WFP’s ability to feed vulnerable families, the agency said in a news release.

The majority of WFP’s operations in Sudan take place in Darfur, where the agency had planned to feed 2.7 million people at the beginning of the year, including 1.4 million living in camps. However, the recent displacements mean that the total number of people receiving assistance in Darfur is expected to climb above 2.9 million people.

“This conflict has been going on for a decade now and the escalation that we’ve seen during the first half of the year has not only created greater needs, but has also hindered our ability to reach all those in need, due to insecurity,” said Mr. Khan. “If it continues, it could very well derail our plans to promote long-term food security and build resilience among communities.”

WFP said it has raised only $180 million out of its operational budget of $397 million to be able to feed 3.9 million conflict-affected people in Sudan. Despite a good harvest last year, food security remains fragile and is threatened by a combination of conflict, insecurity and high food prices.

In addition to the 250,000 people who are internally displaced, some 30,000 Sudanese have crossed over into neighbouring Chad in the past few months, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). So far, about 16,000 are receiving assistance in the new refugee camp of Abgadam in the Tissi area, adding to the 300,000 Darfur refugees who have been in Chad for the past few years.

Meanwhile, the agency has also launched an operation in neighbouring South Sudan to bring urgently needed food to people that have escaped violence in Pibor County in Jonglei state.

“We believe these people need food now and cannot wait for much longer after hiding in the bush for weeks,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP South Sudan Country Director. “We are sparing no effort to provide life-saving assistance, but we need more food supplies in the country and more helicopters to take this food to those who most need it.”

Clashes between South Sudanese forces and insurgents as well as renewed violence between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities have forced thousands of families to seek refuge in locations that are currently inaccessible due to a combination of insecurity and roads made impassable by heavy rains.

To cover the needs of 60,000 people in Jonglei through December, WFP is requesting close to $20 million in emergency funding.