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Libya covers fuel cost to maintain WFP airlift of food aid to Darfur

LIBYA COVERS FUEL COST TO MAINTAIN WFP AIRLIFT OF FOOD AID TO DARFUR

KHARTOUM- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed Libya's agreement to help cover the costs of its airlift of food aid to western Sudan's Darfur region, where up to 3.25 million people will require its assistance.

"We thank the Libyan people and its government for this generous gesture which will allow for the continuation of WFP's humanitarian airlift of food from El Kufra in Libya to Darfur," said John Powell, WFP's Deputy Executive Director.

The Government of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has agreed to waive tariff increases on jet fuel for this humanitarian cargo. Without this help, the UN agency would have been forced to suspend the airlift this month because jet fuel was set to rise from 13 to 33 US cents per liter, costing WFP an additional US$1.5 million a month to maintain the airlift operation.

"It was money we don't have and we are extremely grateful to the Libyan government for their assistance," said Amir Abdulla, WFP's Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, based in Cairo.

The news comes just in time for WFP. Airlifts are important during the rainy season, when roads in Darfur become impassable and the need for food aid peaks.

Unfortunately, the agency's special logistics operation to move food from Libya across the Sahara Desert to Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad has received just US$248,000 of the US$4.5 million needed until February 2006. WFP's emergency food relief effort inside Darfur requires an additional US$562 million, two thirds of which has been contributed.

"The Libyan corridor has been a vital link to the refugees and internally displaced population by allowing us to dramatically increase the amount of food aid we can deliver," said WFP's Sudan Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva in Khartoum.

Since August, Libya has a provided a crucial transportation corridor which allows for substantial deliveries of WFP food aid to be moved by truck and air from the Libyan port of Benghazi into eastern Chad and the three Darfur states in western Sudan. The airlift began on 7 May with an Ilyushin-76 aircraft carrying the first 38 metric tons of food from Al Kufra to Darfur. There are currently two daily flights to the North Darfur capital of El-Fasher and the South Darfur capital of Nyala. To date, the airlift has delivered a total of 5,623 tons of food - enough to feed almost 150,000 people for two months.

"It is a relief not to have to suspend this airlift. We are already using all possible means to get food into Darfur. The loss of this route would have made it more difficult for WFP to provide for up to 3.25 million people we plan to assist from August through to October ," added Abdulla, who is based in Cairo.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.

WFP -- We Feed People. WFP Global School Feeding Campaign - For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school - a gift of hope for a brighter future.

Visit our website: www.wfp.org

For more information please contact (email: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Antonia Paradela-Torices
WFP/Khartoum
Tel: +249 91 230 5974

Khaled Mansour
WFP/Cairo
Tel. +20 12 234 8671

Anthea Webb
WFP/Rome
Tel. +39-06-65132411
Mob. +39-340-8636509

Trevor Rowe
WFP/NY
Tel. +1-212-9635196
Mob. +1-646-8241112
rowe@un.org

Gregory Barrow
WFP/London
Tel. +44-20-75929292
Mob. +44-7968-008474

Simon Pluess
WFP/Geneva
Tel. +41-22-9178581
Mob. +41 797 743821