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WFP: Deliveries to Darfur Continue

The U.N. World Food Program says efforts to bring food to people in Sudan's troubled Darfur region are continuing, despite logistical challenges. WFP says insufficient security on the roads has led to attacks on their food-carrying trucks by bandits. It also says it has not yet received funding for its humanitarian air service. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Khartoum.

Every month 30,000 to 40,000 tons of food is required to feed people in the three states of Darfur in Sudan. The food comes into Port Sudan and is driven down to the main hubs in long-haul trucks and then on smaller trucks to the three state capitals of Darfur.

WFP Darfur Coordinator Corinne Fleischer says smaller six-wheel trucks are then used to deliver the food to some 350 different locations.

"At the moment we're feeding 2 million people in Darfur," she said. "This will go up during the hunger season up to 3.2-3.3 million and because during hunger season we also feed a bigger number of people in the villages."

WFP has 800 trucks on the roads in Sudan at any one time. The organization says the main problem it faces is access, because of the patchwork of small conflict zones and insecurity on the roads. Fleischer says bandits targeted 46 trucks since the beginning of this year. A total of 33 trucks and 23 drivers are still unaccounted for.

Although banditry is hampering the operation, Fleischer says food deliveries are continuing for the moment. She says sometimes the drivers are too scared to make their journeys.

"We're very much concerned," she added. "Any moment this could change. If the trucking companies are not getting in or stopping, or reducing their service, then we could within a very short time be faced to cut the rations."

The United Nations peace operation for Darfur (UNAMID) has just over 9,000 soldiers and police officers on the ground and more are expected to deploy in the coming days. But so far these forces have not been sufficient to improve the volatile security situation. WFP Darfur Coordinator Corinne Fleischer.

"If and when UNAMID is deploying and has the capacity on the ground we will very much count on them to patrol the roads so that security is enhanced on the roads," she explained.

The World Food Program is also concerned about the humanitarian air service that it manages in Sudan. On average it flies 15,000 people all over Sudan and eight thousand to Darfur in a month. Fleischer says the flights are at risk for lack of funding.

"This is right now very much at risk because we have not so far received funding this year for the humanitarian air service and if we do not receive the funding we will have to stop operations by the end of the month which would be dramatic," she said.

Dramatic, she says, because soon as the rainy season starts many roads in Darfur will not be accessible and people will not be able to reach their destinations to deliver humanitarian services.

WFP says Darfur accounts for 77 percent of all of its resources, that's about $500 million this year and almost 500,000 tons of food for the people living in the war-ravaged region.