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Insecurity Blocks Food Aid to Hundreds of Thousands in Darfur

In western Sudan’s Darfur region, there’s been some improvement in food distribution to those in need. However, many thousands of others remain cut off from supplies.

Simon Crittle is a spokesperson for the UN World Food Program. From Khartoum, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the problems plaguing relief agencies.

“In recent months, the biggest problem the World Food Program has encountered in Darfur…is that we just can’t get through to hundreds of thousands of people, who require our food aid. The number peaked in July at 470,000. It came down in September. The number was 224,000. So, it’s still very, very high and we’re very concerned for the welfare of those people,” he says.

Insecurity is hampering food distribution. Crittle says, “The roads are so dangerous. In Darfur right now there is a lot of banditry going on. There are also nine different rebel groups operating and of course the janjaweed. It’s a lawless place. These food convoys represent a lot of money to some of those armed groups. So these convoys are being stopped. The drivers are being harassed, sometimes dragged out, beaten up. And food is being taken. So, in some of the areas where there is a lot of fighting going on right now, we just take a decision it’s just too dangerous to send those convoys through.”

It’s unclear when they might be sent. “We are very, very concerned for the moment for an area in northern Darfur, where people have been cut off from food aid for four months. There’s about 139,000 people up there that haven’t had food for that long. Basically, what we do, we have to go in and negotiate with the commanders on the ground and try and get access to these places,” he says.