The United Nations World Food Program says political violence in Libya has forced it to suspend the delivery of food through the Libyan corridor to hundreds of thousands of people in Chad. The WFP says it has diverted two ships carrying 10,000 metric tons of food aid to the Red Sea port of Port Sudan.
Chad is a landlocked country. The World Food Program ships 60 percent of its food aid to the port of Douala in Cameroon, from where it is loaded on to trains and trucks bound for Chad.
A second port of entry is in Benghazi, Libya, where the remaining 40 percent is off-loaded and then put on trucks for the long, arduous trip through the desert to Chad.
The WFP country director in Chad, Jean-Luc Siblot, says the Libyan corridor is now closed due to the instability in the country. Fortunately, he says, the agency was able to get permission to ship the food to the Port Sudan. He says the food has since been transferred to trucks for the 3,000-kilometer trip across the desert to Chad.
"It seems that this corridor through Sudan will work and we are expecting the first trucks to arrive in the next coming days," he said. "If and when the situation will stabilize and allow us again to use the Libyan corridor, we will probably be in a position to use both corridors depending on the benefit of discharging in Benghazi or discharging in Port Sudan. I think it will be a question of cost, effectiveness and a question, of course, of timing."
Siblot says another consequence of the conflict in Libya is likely to be the return of between 200,000 and 300,000 Chadian migrants. They have been living and working in the country for years.
He says these migrants come from very poor, rural areas. Their families live off the remittances they send home. But since fighting erupted in Libya, he says, the remittances have stopped coming.
"The most likely scenario is that we are going to see these people coming back into the villages where we are helping, supporting the families, who are living there," he said. "This is exactly the reality of these people coming back with nothing and they will have no way of survival. And, then we will have, most likely, to include them in one way or another in our support program."
The World Food Program currently assists more than two million people in Chad, which has a population of 11 million. Most of the beneficiaries, more than 874,000, are people affected by drought in the western and central Sahelian regions of Chad.
The WFP provides food for more than one-quarter million Sudanese refugees from Darfur and nearly 200,000 internally displaced people and returnees in eastern Chad. It assists tens of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic and runs special feeding programs for school children and for thousands of malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women.