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Fuel Shortage in Sudan Cripples Food Deliveries

A fuel shortage in Sudan has caused the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) to cut emergency deliveries of food to more than a million people in the south of the country. The United Nations says the shortage has also affected its relief efforts in the Darfur region.

The United Nations said Wednesday a shortage of jet fuel has severely hampered its efforts to airlift food to an estimated 1.3 million people in southern Sudan.

U.N. officials say the reason for the shortages is that Khartoum's only refinery producing jet fuel was closed in July for maintenance and left Sudan with severe shortages.

World Food Program Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva in a press release called the fuel shortage "a tragedy for hundreds of thousands of people."

U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri says the problem is very serious.

"The United Nations World Food Program said there is a crippling shortage of jet fuel for its air hub in El Obeid, that has slashed its ability to airlift and airdrop food aid in Sudan at the height of the annual hunger season, cutting deliveries of food to the south by half at the worst time of the year. Its quite a serious problem the WFP is facing," she said.

The United Nations says its efforts to airdrop food aid into Sudan's Darfur region in the west have also been hindered by the fuel shortage, affecting an estimated 3.4 million people.

A peace agreement signed in January ended a 21-year war between southern rebels and the northern Khartoum government. Food shortages, which are the worst since a famine seven years ago, are among the most serious challenges the yet-to-be-formed government in the south will be facing.