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WFP:  Lack of Security Threatens Darfur Relief Operation


The World Food Program warns increasing insecurity in Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur is jeopardizing its operations. The U.N. agency says attacks on food convoys and drivers are hampering efforts to get crucial supplies to thousands of needy people.

The World Food Program says during the past two or three weeks, 20 trucks were attacked in northern and southern Darfur. WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says this particularly dangerous area is under rebel control. She says it is unclear whether bandits or members of the Sudan Liberation Army are behind the attacks.

"Our trucks are attacked on a daily basis," she said. "They have been shot at. They have been stolen. The food aid has been stolen as well. Some of the drivers have been kidnapped. So, it is quite worrying. The drivers, they are afraid. And, this is quite understandable. Not only do we need to protect their lives, but also there are all these people that need the food and they will not get it if insecurity still continues to prevail."

The World Food Program is feeding 2.7 million people who fled their homes when their villages were attacked.

Fighting broke out between the Sudanese-backed militia, known as the Janjaweed and two rebel groups in 2003. Since then, nearly three million people have been made homeless, tens of thousands have been killed, and more than 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad.

Berthiaume says the displaced people are living in crowded camps, under miserable conditions and depend on food aid for survival. She says this is a critical time because the World Food Program has to pre-position food before the rainy season begins in April and roads become impassable.

"We are getting into what we call the hunger season," she said. "This is the period before the harvest when people are exhausting all the reserves they had and also their coping mechanisms. And, one has to remember that these people that fled their villages have not been able to work their lands. They are in camps and so they have no food. So they count on us."

Berthiaume says the U.N. has not received any guarantees of security from the Sudanese government or the rebels. Despite the risks, she says her agency will continue to deliver food because the needs are so great.

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