KHARTOUM - The United Nations World Food Programme said today that for the first time since WFP's major emergency operation for Darfur began, a drastic shortage of funds will force it to cut rations for more than one million people living in the western region of Darfur.
Starting in May, WFP will have to cut by half the non-cereal part of the daily ration. This is a last resort to help stretch current food supplies through the critical months of July and August -- the region's traditional lean months, when food needs become most acute.
While the reduction will not affect programmes for malnourished children and nursing mothers, it will impact significantly on the diet of more than one million poor and vulnerable people. A cut by half in non-cereals - the most nutritious part of the ration means that the daily minimum recommended diet of 2,100 kilocalories per person will drop to 1,890.
"We are very concerned about the negative effect this drastic ration cut will have on the health and psychological well-being of thousands of people, who are already weakened and traumatized by war," said Carlos Veloso, WFP's Emergency Coordinator for Darfur. "We have done everything to avoid this including borrowing supplies - we are simply left with no alternative."
While donations to WFP for cereals have been generous and thus the ration's cereal portion remains unchanged, there has been little response to repeated appeals for non-cereals -- pulses, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and blended foods.
WFP has received just US$275 million of the US$468 million (41 percent) it requires to feed up to 2.3 million people each month in Darfur in 2005.
The situation will become even more dramatic when food needs escalate during the rainy season in July and August, prompting an additional 500,000 people at least to require food aid. Continuing conflict and insecurity, low rainfall and a poor past harvest threaten to push numbers even higher.
Meanwhile, WFP is continuing to move as much food as possible from Port Sudan on the Red Sea to Darfur before the rains set in. During March, dispatches to state capitals within the Darfurs exceeded 52,000 metric tons, significantly above February's figures.
But widespread conflict, banditry and insecurity to people in villages beyond the state capitals still made many areas inaccessible for much of March. As a result, WFP food assistance reached an estimated 1.4 million people in Darfur, some 200,000 fewer than the record 1.6 million people fed in February.
"The people of Darfur need urgent aid. They don't have other options. The conflict in the region has robbed them of their homes and livelihoods. We have to do everything we can to make sure the assistance we provide meets their basic needs," Veloso said.
Donors who have so far contributed to the WFP emergency operation in Darfur are the United States (US$230 million), the European Community (US$27 million), Canada (US$6 million), the United Kingdom (US$2.83 million), the Netherlands (US$2 million), Australia (US$1.96 million), Germany (US$928,000), the United Arab Emirates (US$790,000), Italy, ($636,000), Luxembourg (US$460,000), Switzerland US$340,000), Andorra (US$35,000) and Slovenia (US$35,000) and US$2 million in multilateral funds.
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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