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Libya opens humanitarian corridor for WFP food aid into Darfur and Chad

LIBYA OPENS HUMANITARIAN CORRIDIOR FOR WFP FOOD AID INTO DARFUR AND CHAD

TRIPOLI / ROME - In a landmark deal with the United Nations World Food Programme, the Libyan Government has joined the international community in helping to provide life-saving assistance to 1.2 million people displaced by conflict in western Sudan's Darfur region and some 175,000 who have fled to eastern Chad.

Libya will provide a corridor for substantial deliveries of WFP food from the United States and other donors. The first shipment of 450 metric tons of wheat flour from Switzerland is expected to arrive in the Libyan port of Benghazi in early August, followed by a US donation.

The Government of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and WFP today signed an agreement to guarantee the safe passage of food aid and other UN humanitarian supplies through Libya -- by air, water and road -- destined for eastern Chad and the three Darfur states in western Sudan, as well as other central African countries.

"We are extremely grateful to the government of Libya for responding to our appeals for assistance in dealing with what is one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world today," said John Powell, WFP Deputy Executive Director, at a press conference in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

With the rainy season underway, WFP must overcome both man and nature to reach all of those driven from their homes and farms in the Darfur states by conflict. In addition to airlifts in both Sudan and Chad, WFP is also trucking food from Port Sudan in the eastern part of the country and Douala in Cameroon, but insecurity and rains are hampering deliveries.

"The Libyan corridor provides a vital link to the refugees and internally displaced population which allows us to dramatically increase the amount of food aid we can deliver," said Powell. "It also has great potential for providing food more efficiently to cope with other emergencies in central Africa."

Responding to the announcement made in Tripoli, WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said, "We are greatly encouraged by this cooperation and hope to build a long-term, humanitarian partnership with Libya. We look forward to its joining Arab and other donors supporting WFP. For the first time in decades, the number of hungry in the world is on the rise again, and we need everyone's help."

WFP is planning its first land convoy using the Libyan corridor, 3000 kilometers across the Sahara, to Chad in August. The opening of the Libyan corridor will enable year-round access, as well as reduce the transport time and the dangers associated with delivering food.

In June, 10,126 tons of WFP food reached a total of 650,193 people in the three states of North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur - just short of WFP's target for the month of 700,000 beneficiaries. In July, WFP hopes to reach one million people and by the end of August 1.2 million in the Darfur states.

For its operations in Darfur, WFP is urgently requesting funds from donors to get food aid to the more than one million people internally displaced by violence within Sudan since February last year. To date, WFP has received a total of US$66,805,994 out of US$195,300,716 required for its Darfur emergency operations in 2004, meaning WFP has just one-third of the funding it needs.

On average, a truck loaded with food takes three weeks to reach destinations in Darfur from Port Sudan. The rainy season has started and is causing major transport problems as swollen rivers cut roads. Health conditions will worsen in the rains and water-borne diseases, such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery, are becoming major threats.

In eastern Chad, 126,300 Sudanese refugees from Darfur are living in nine camps and another 50,000 are scattered along the border with Sudan awaiting relocation to camps. WFP, in June, distributed 2,500 tons of food to 127,000 refugees in eastern Chad. As of 14 July, WFP had distributed 1,080 tons of food to more than 72,000 refugees so far this month.

WFP has so far received US$18.6 million towards its appeal for US$30.5 million for its operations in eastern Chad in 2004, leaving a shortfall of almost 40 percent of the total.

To date, major donors to WFP's operations in Darfur have been USA (US$46 million), European Commission (US$4.7 million), UK (US$4 million), Canada (US$ 2.9 million), Australia (US$ 1.4 million), Germany (US$ 1.2 million) and others. For WFP operations in Chad, significant contributions have been received from US (US$ 6.5 million), UK (US$ 1.9 million), Canada (US$ 1.7 million), France (US$ 1.6 million), Switzerland (US$ 1.3 million) and others.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we provided food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.

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Peter Smerdon
WFP/Nairobi
Tel +254-20-622179
Mob. +254-733-528-911
e-mail: Peter.Smerdon@wfp.org

Rene McGuffin
WFP/Rome
Tel +39-06-65132430
Mob. +39-3481337870
e-mail: Rene.McGuffin@wfp.org

Gregory Barrow
WFP/London
Tel. +44-20-75929292
Mob. +44-7968-008474
e-mail: Gregory.Barrow@wfp.org

Simon Pleuss
WFP/Geneva
Tel. +41-22-9178564
e-mail: Simon.Pleuss@wfp.org

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

Jordan Dey
WFP/Washington
Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149
Mob. +1-202-4223383
e-mail: Jordan.Dey@wfp.org