News reports this week say the Janjaweed militias have resumed attacks in Sudan’s Darfur region. However, the reports say the attacks are centering on destroying the region’s harvest, which is underway.
Tom Shortley is the head of program in Sudan for the UN World Food Program. From Khartoum, he spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about the security situation in Darfur and prospects for this year’s harvest.
“The security situation remains very difficult. We are able to continue to operate across the Darfurs (three states), but we do have daily difficulties. Access for our humanitarian staff is clearly a big issue. Trucks delivering food on time is difficult when you have access problems. Our cooperating partners’ capacity is also affected by the security situation,” he says.
The WFP is providing food aid to many people in the region. Mr. Shortley says, “At the height of the emergency in October, we reached just about 2.75 million. The objective from November through the first quarter (of 2006) is to reduce slightly because the harvest is coming in. Though the harvest is unknown still at this point we targeting still around 2.3 million people.”
Explaining why information on the harvest is lacking, he says, “The World Food program is very concerned that the actual harvest will be much lower than the crop. There are several indicators that we’re watching very closely over the next few months…one is the access again and the availability of the farmers to harvest their crop. Security plays an important component in this discussion. Another is an increase in labor costs because they were able to plant more this year the production is larger. The farmers are going to have to pay more to get the crops harvested.” Timing is also an issue.
He says, “Typically at this point in time at least 30% should have been harvested already. And we don’t think quite that much as been harvested yet.”