Darfur faces rationing crisis as food appeal runs short of money
|The Guardian , 22 Mai 2006|
The world food programme, which feeds more than 3 million people in Darfur and a further 3 million in the south and east of Sudan, has cut back its food supplies because it is running out of money.
Donor countries have given only £167m of the £397m it needs for its budget. In what the WFP executive director, James Morris, called "one of the hardest decisions" of his life, he ordered that rations be halved from May.
With Darfur entering its "hunger season", when the rains fall but there are no harvests, the WFP has only two months' worth of stocks, which must last until September. Food cuts are already in effect across Darfur. People who have lost their homes and often family members too will now receive just 1,050 kilocalories in food a day - half the minimum recommended daily allowance.
The monthly salt, sugar and lentil rations that Amona Yaagoob's family of eight normally receives has been cut in half - and the food must last until July.
"We asked the sheikh to investigate because this can't even last us for one whole month," said Mrs Yaagoob, who lives with 50,000 other people in a camp on the edge of el-Fasher town.
This week, when she receives her ration of wheat, it will also be half the usual amount."Why is this happening?" Mrs Yaagoob, 30, asked.
The food cuts come at a critical time in Darfur. The government and the main rebel movement signed a peace agreement two weeks ago.
But the splinter faction of the Sudan Liberation Army that is holding out for more concessions from the government has the support of Darfur's largest ethnic group, the Fur, and the situation on the ground remains extremely tense.
During the past two weeks there have been several violent protests about the peace deal in the displaced persons' camps, which house more than 2 million people. Most of them are entirely dependent on food aid.
Aid workers say that the food cuts will cause a rise in discontent and in the malnutrition figures.
"All the gains made in reducing malnutrition in Darfur could soon reverse," a British humanitarian worker in el-Fasher said.
Since Mr Morris's announcement, the US has rerouted five ships carrying food aid towards Sudan. The Sudanese government also announced a donation of 20,000 tonnes of grain - the first time Khartoum has given food to Darfur.
But the long logistic chain - from the time money is pledged the food can take four months to reach Darfur - means the US donation could only arrive in time for August distribution.
Sudan's own contribution could help the wheat rations to rise sooner, but the WFP needs £8.5m in cash donations to transport the food.
Aside from the ongoing insecurity across a remote and vast area, the roads are poor and some will become impassable when the rains begin.
Donor fatigue is being blamed for the shortfall in funding. "We had feared that countries would get tired of Darfur in 2006," said Antonia Paradela, WFP spokeswoman in Khartoum. "That happened and then the Horn of Africa drought hit, creating even more demands on donors."
After the US, where the Darfur lobby is huge, the biggest contributor to the food appeal is the UN common humanitarian fund with £15m. The biggest European donor is Norway, with £1m.
Britain has made no direct contribution. But a spokeswoman for the Department for International Development said that Britain was the second largest overall donor to Darfur, having given £122m in humanitarian aid since September 2003, and making a £49m contribution to the UN fund.
Britain had also donated £43m for the Horn of Africa drought appeal this year, she said.