Home | News    Friday 27 August 2004

WFP launches second phase of airdrops in Sudan’s Darfur amid rains

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NAIROBI, Aug 26 (AFP) — The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday said it has launched the second phase of relief food airdrops to areas in Sudan’s Darfur region, despite the heavy rains battering the region.

"In order to deliver much-needed food to people living in camps around El-Geneina, the second phase of airdrops includes the town itself and is already under way," WFP said in a statement sent to AFP in Nairobi.

"The second phase also includes several sites beyond El-Geneina and will target a total of nearly 140,000 displaced people," the statement said, adding that some 72,000 people have already been reached with 1,832 tonnes of food since the first phase started on August 1.

The WFP said the rains in Darfur has affected delivery of food by road and air.

"The rains continue to play havoc with Darfur’s severely limited and overstretched surface transport network and reports continue to be received of trucks struggling to negotiate roads turned into mud by heavy rains, as well as poor surfaces elsewhere," it added.

On Wednesday, six relief trucks got stuck in thick sand on a road from El-Obeid to El-Fasher and it took 10 hours to dig them out, while in mid-August, heavy rains buckled the railway between El-Obeid and Nyala, resulting in the derailment of a train carrying WFP food.

"Delivery of food by air has become the only option in some areas of Darfur, particularly the far west around the town of El-Geneina," the statement said.

"Air operations are not immune to the effects of the rains, as heavy downpours have already caused postponement of airdrops by 24 hours in some cases," it said.

The UN estimates that up to 50,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels rose up in February 2003 against the government in Khartoum, which responded with attacks carried out by a proxy militia on tribes backing the rebellion.

Another 1.2 million people are displaced in Darfur itself, while up to 200,000 more have been settled in makeshift camps in equally impoverished eastern Chad, according to the UN.

The WFP said it is constantly increasing its capacity to deliver food in Darfur by reinforcing staffing levels on the ground.

"Nearly 50 more are to be deployed over the next four weeks, taking the number of WFP staff in Darfur to more than 250," WFP said.

"We are also planning to purchase 12,000 tonnes of sorghum within Sudan over the next two weeks, all of which is bound for the Darfur," it added.

Meanwhile an Antonov transport plane of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was due to leave Nairobi later Thursday for the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to deliver 10 all-terrain trucks, landcruisers, and other relief supplies bound for Darfur, ICRC officials said.

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