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Chad Security Hampers Humanitarian Aid

Nearly two-million people in Chad are affected by a shortage of food brought on by poor rains across Africa's Sahel region. Years of insecurity have also complicated the delivery of food assistance in Chad.

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes says the situation in Chad is particularly alarming because the lean season has only just begun. There will not be another harvest until after rains officials hope will come in August.

Holmes is calling for international donors to supply more funds immediately to get supplies into the country as quickly as possible, especially in hard-hit western regions.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says food shortages in Kanem, Batha and Guera provinces have forced many men to leave their villages in search of work elsewhere.

Spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs says delivering food assistance in Chad is made more difficult by years of instability.

"We have several humanitarian programs going on in Chad right now," she said. "And there is a problem, which is access. We need access to the most vulnerable population - to children, to elderly people. And with some unrest in some parts of Chad, access is very difficult. And sometimes this insecurity impairs our humanitarian operations," said Byrs.

Chadian and Sudanese rebels have long used each other's countries to launch attacks against the governments in Khartoum and Ndjamena.

Chadian President Idriss Deby this month refused to extend the mandate of nearly 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers who have been protecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to one-quarter-million Sudanese refugees from Darfur and another one-quarter-million combined internally displaced Chadians and refugees from the Central African Republic.

"Under this new mandate, the government of Chad will assume the full responsibility for the protection of civilians and also of course the protection of humanitarian workers and the delivery of assistance," she said. "Chadian forces now will take over security responsibilities. They will assist in relocating refugee camps. They will also liaise with the national and regional authorities on banditry. And they will assist and help the humanitarian workers," Byrs added.

The U.N. Children's Fund says more than 100,000 severely malnourished children in Chad will need life-saving treatment this year. Byrs says much of that depends on having the security to reach those in need.

"It is absolutely needed that we have safe access and that aid is not impaired by this security concern," Byrs stressed.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says it has only $2 million of the more than $11 million it needs to prevent future hunger. That means farmers will receive 360 tons of seeds for the next harvest, instead of more than 11,000 tons of seeds. Plans to distribute 6,000 tons of animal feed are being cut back to just more than 400 tons of feed.