Despite prospects for peace food aid still needed for 3.2 million Sudanese

WFP News Release
13 May 2003

Amid greater prospects for peace and improved humanitarian access in Sudan, massive food aid is still needed this year for millions of people devastated by 20 years of armed conflict, and a fourth consecutive year of drought.

Today the UN World Food Programme announced a new US$130 million emergency operation to feed 3.2 million Sudanese over the next 12 months. WFP is appealing for 148,000 metric tons of food aid to feed 1.7 million people in northern Sudan, and another 1.5 million in the south.

"This is a moment of great hope, sparked by a renewed commitment towards peace," said Ronald Sibanda, WFP Country Director for Sudan. "At the same time, it's a moment of great challenge, when an even greater number of people are being stalked by hunger each day."

Under WFP's new operation, an additional 300,000 people over last year will be targetted by relief distributions. The scaling-up is mainly due to extensive drought affecting more than 870,000 people in the north of the country, and the additional requirement to feed newly-accessible communities.

The IGAD-sponsored peace initiative for Sudan has resulted in greater access and improved security for aid agencies on the ground. Until recently, large numbers of hungry people were cut off from outside humanitarian assistance.

Over the last year, WFP has been able to reach more areas outside its traditional zones of operation. In March, food aid was sent for the first time to Blue Nile State, by air and road. In the Nuba Mountains, WFP has started a cross-line road operation -- a major achievement in providing food aid at a lower cost than by air.

Cross-line food deliveries by river along the Nile and the Sobat rivers have also started.

"All over Sudan, food aid is absolutely imperative to save lives," said Sibanda. "Civil strife and drought have reduced populations to absolute poverty. We have to act to prevent people from dying, becoming malnourished or migrating."

WFP is, however, facing serious funding problems to continue its assistance in Sudan. Despite recent contribution totalling US$ 30 million, the supplies currently available will be exhausted by mid-July. Further contributions are urgently required to continue assisting war and drought-affected populations.

Prolonged armed conflict in Sudan ? a country with only 10 years of peace since independence in 1956 - has left communities in the southern part of the country almost totally destitute. Millions of people have been displaced, agriculture activities have been brought to a halt and socio-economic mechanisms have been destroyed.
Communities are unable to satisfy their most basic necessities, such as food, water, health and sanitation.

The local infrastructure is also in shambles. Road access to southern Sudan remains a major problem, with food airlifts and airdrops still the primary means of delivery, which increases costs. Schools in many areas are non-existent, with those in place relying on the support of the humanitarian community to continue operating.
Healthcare is equally scarce, and dependent on external support.

With poor agriculture production, and very weak market infrastructure, war-affected communities struggle to cope with even temporary food shortages. Where and when available, the price of locally-grown cereals often soar, while livestock prices decrease as poor families sell their cattle ? their only income source - out of

Recurrent drought in Sudan has also exacerbated an already precarious existence. In northern Sudan, insufficient and erratic rainfall has greatly diminished food production. After years of lost agriculture production due to repeated droughts, communities are no longer able to cope with food scarcity. The provision of food
assistance, particularly to the Red Sea and Darfur States, is critical to protect their survival and the assets that enable them to face the future.

Nation-wide, Sudan has a grave problem of malnutrition. According to the most recent surveys, the national average of global acute malnutrition is 19 percent, but in some areas it is as high as 39.9 percent. The plight of women is particularly harsh - one in 10 is severely malnourished, and 50 percent of women are at risk of
becoming malnourished. Women are often left behind in charge of feeding their families while men are off fighting, in exile, or migrating to look for work.

Apart from saving lives, food aid also plays a major role in supporting peace efforts. With guaranteed access to food, distressed populations can concentrate on rebuilding their assets and developing alternative ways to deal with the crisis. In Sudan, WFP is also supporting rehabilitation projects such as the reconstruction of schools, water pans and healthcare centers by providing food to those working on the projects.

"Food aid goes beyond satisfying a basic need and preventing malnutrition ? it is crucial to ensuring that populations affected by war and drought have the strength to work the land, to improve their communities and to rebuild their lives peacefully," concluded Sibanda.

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To find out more about growing hunger in Africa and the global campaign to assist more than 38 million people across the continent, go to WFP's "Africa Hunger Alert" webpage. Videos and photos are also available: