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Quick U.S. response allows WFP to cancel ration cut in Darfur but funding still critical

KHARTOUM - The United Nations World Food Programme announced today that thanks to a rapid donor response, the agency will not be forced to carry out expected ration cuts in May for close to two million people living in Sudan's western region of Darfur. The reprieve follows WFP's warning three weeks ago of impending ration cuts due to a lack of funds which remains a concern.

As a last resort due to severe under-funding, WFP had planned to halve the non-cereals part of the daily ration for general distributions in Darfur in May. However, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Food for Peace has stepped in and redirected to Sudan around 14,000 metric tons of non-cereals already on the high seas.

"We are extremely appreciative of the urgent efforts made by the United States to prevent ration cuts at such a critical period," said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, WFP's Representative and Country Director in Sudan. Even before this new donation, the United States has contributed 60 percent of the food and 50 percent of cash towards WFP's emergency operation.

However, WFP warned that despite this stop-gap measure for the current non-cereals shortfall, the overall emergency operation in Darfur still remains severely under-funded. Of the US$467 million WFP needs for the Darfur operation, only US$281 million has been received, leaving a 40 percent shortfall.

Adding to the difficulties is the recently increased estimate of people requiring food aid. WFP contingency planning projects a worst-case scenario of 3.5 million people in need during the leanest months of July and August, of which WFP will target 3.25 million.

"The rainy season coincides with the peak of the hunger season," Lopes da Silva said. "With limited food supply, the situation is going to be dreadful for hundreds of thousands of Sudanese."

WFP is the largest humanitarian agency; in 2004, WFP provided food aid to 81 million people in 80 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people. More than half the number of those assisted were children.

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Penny Ferguson,
Tel. + 249 91 217 4769

Julia Stewart,
Tel. +249 91 216 0912

Peter Smerdon,
WFP Nairobi,
Tel. 254 20 622 179,
Mob. 254 733 528 911

Brenda Barton,
Deputy Director Communications,
Tel. +39-06-65132602

Christiane Berthiaume,
Tel. +41-22-9178564,
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Gregory Barrow,
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Mob: +44-79-68008474

Trevor Rowe,
Tel. +1-212-9635196,
Mob. +1-646-8241112,