The World Food Program, WFP, says certain parts of southern Sudan are facing new food crises due to bad harvests and high prices for staple foods.  The WFP says the food shortages facing hundreds of thousands of Sudanese are more critical than originally anticipated.

The World Food Program says the expected rains never came.  This means the hoped-for good harvests also have not materialized. 

As a consequence, WFP Spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says her agency underestimated the need and now is in even more serious financial difficulty than it had been before.

"We have only 10 percent of the appeal that we have launched of $300 million for this year.  And that is a very worrying factor because if we go back to the donors with a higher figure, what is going to happen?  So, this is worrying.  At this time of the year, our warehouse should be full, packed to the roof and they are almost empty.  And, we are getting into what we call the hunger season," she said. 

By April and May, Ms. Berthiaume explains, many people will have exhausted most of their reserve food stocks.  She says the situation for many of the 5.5f million people for whom this appeal was launched will be worse off than had been anticipated in November. 

She says WFP is sending a team of aid workers to seven areas identified by an expert as being the most vulnerable.  She says the team will assess how many more people will be in need of food.  She says a team also will be sent to Bahr el-Gazal even though that area is not on the expert's list of critically affected regions.

"But, we have?evidence, some testimony of people saying that in some parts of Bahr el-Gazal there are some pockets of food insecurity because of people coming back home,? she added.  ?As you know, since the peace agreement on the 9 of January, there are thousands of people that are voting with their feet.  They are going back home and if they are going to a place where there is no help, this is going to be bad news for them."

Ms. Berthiaume says WFP keeps a watchful eye on Bahr el-Gazal because it does not want a repeat of the 1998 famine, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The WFP Spokeswoman says the situation is somewhat better in Darfur because half of the $438 million appeal has been received.  However, she adds that Darfur also expects poor harvests this year and the nearly two million people displaced by the conflict lack many of the basic food supplies they need to keep healthy.