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WFP Faces Violence in Sudan, Shortages

The U.N.'s World Food Program says three drivers of its trucks contracted in Sudan for food deliveries have been killed. WFP says drivers are facing daily acts of violence and the number of hijackings of its trucks is close to 60 since the start of this year. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

The World Food Program has expressed shock at the killing of the three drivers of the U.N. food aid agency's contracted trucks in Sudan. The men were killed in two separate incidents.

The murder of one of the drivers occurred on March 24 on the main route to Nyala in South Darfur. The other two truck drivers were killed two days earlier in southern Sudan as they were carrying food to Abyei. Six assailants stabbed them to death on a riverbank.

The WFP has been expressing concern over the security situation and increasing banditry attacks on its trucks delivering food assistance to hungry people in Sudan. The WFP Sudan representative Kenro Oshidari says drivers are facing daily acts of violence and that's unacceptable.

The WFP says close to 60 of its trucks have been hijacked so far this year. The agency warns these attacks are delaying vital food deliveries and reducing by half the amount of food normally transported into Darfur at this time of the year.

Oshidari said all parties must recognize that the drivers of humanitarian vehicles and their cargo are serving a neutral humanitarian purpose.

The U.N. food agency is also dealing with a shortage of funds due to increasing food prices and appealed to donor countries for additional money. Without the extra cash, WFP spokeswoman Caroline Hurford says, people will go hungry.

"If we don't get this 500 million [US dollars] on top of our budget which is $2.9 billion we know that we're going to have to exercise a sort of form of triage where we will either have to provide food assistance to fewer people or cut the rations of those who we do now feed," said Hurford.

WFP explains it had not anticipated either the rapid increase in the prices of food or the sharp decline of the buying power of the U.S. dollar.

The agency helps feed about 73 million people in 78 countries, including three million people a day in Sudan's Darfur region alone.