The World Food Program says more funds are urgently needed to cope with food requirements in southern and eastern Sudan to avoid serious suffering in these areas. WFP has been making preparations for the rainy season, which like every year will limit access to many areas in the country.
The World Food Program is seriously concerned about a shortage of funding for its operations in Sudan. The organization's deputy executive director, Jean Jacques Graisse, recently returned from a trip to Khartoum, southern Sudan and Darfur.
He says he was relieved to some extent following his visit. Some governments, particularly the United States, he says, have managed to provide the WFP with sufficient food to enable the organization to pre-position all the food requirements for the coming 3-4 months in west Darfur.
"Our warehouses are quite full right now particularly in west Darfur in places where we may no longer be able to move food to after the rains have started," Mr.Graisse says.
But Mr. Graisse adds that part of the food that is in Darfur was taken from other operations in the country, which must now be reimbursed. He says the donor community needs to come forward with funds to deal with the food crisis in the African country.
WFP has put the total cost of its operations in Sudan for 2005 at 300-million dollars. Mr. Graisse says at present the south and eastern parts of Sudan are both in dire need of food supplies.
"While we are 65 percent funded for Darfur, we are only 23 percent funded for the rest of the Sudan," Mr. Graisse says.
This is a sad situation, he adds, because the people in the south had hoped to see some peace dividends after an agreement was signed in Nairobi in January between the south and the government in Khartoum. Unfortunately, he says, southern Sudan appears to have been forgotten.
Mr. Graisse says advantage should be taken of the new more peaceful situation in the south, which makes transport of food easier. He says WFP's logistical capacity has also improved significantly with help from Britain and the United States.
"We have managed to reconstruct 500 kilometers of roads which link Uganda to south Sudan and Kenya to south Sudan so this year we are much better able to move food by trucks instead of having to move it by air," Mr. Graisse says.
Unfortunately this is not the case everywhere. In Darfur, truck drivers continue to be victims of banditry and some have been killed.
Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese fled from their homes during the fighting in the south and attacks in Darfur. WFP says not enough of these people are returning. Many are still too scared to go back to their villages for fear of attacks and lack of food.
"Yes it is a problem that fewer than we had hoped for, refugees coming from abroad or displaced people coming from within Sudan will be back in their villages during this planting season," Mr. Graisse says.
Mr. Graisse says their failure to return in time for the rainy season, which is the planting season, is bad news because it will create food availability problems for the next season and until the next harvest in October 2006.