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Desert Food Convoys Face Race Against Time

Every year WFP has to get food to refugees in eastern Chad before the rainy season starts and it becomes impossible. That means taking scores of trucks on a hair-raising, 2,800-km journey through the Libyan desert. It's not for the faint-hearted. Watch video

Video by Jonathan Dumont/text by Judith Schuler

ABECHE -- Providing enough food for 430,000 Sudanese refugees and displaced people living in crowded camps in Eastern Chad is a race against the clock, as deliveries have to be completed before the rainy season means the roads become impassable. 

The journey follows an ancient slave route and takes the convoy through some of the world's most inhospitable terrain. It takes nearly a month to complete.  “The drivers of the 100-truck convoys are very courageous," says Jean-Pierre Mantel, a WFP security officer who accompanied one the convoys through the desert. 

"All sorts of danger"

“During their long journey, they don't see any water - only sand - and every day they face all sorts of danger. Frequent desert storms bring visibility to zero, mines and mortar shells from former wars are lying around and if someone is sick, there is no doctor around the corner to help." 

Nodding his head in agreement, one of the drivers adds: "But when you arrive and see all the people you are helping, you know that this is a rewarding journey.” 

Crucial ground corridor

Since August 2004, Libya has been allowing WFP to use this crucial ground transport corridor from the port of Benghazi to Chad. It enables WFP to continue regular food distributions and pre-position food stocks in eastern Chad’s refugee camps before the rainy season starts in July.

After a temporary halt because of fighting between rebels and government forces, WFP resumed food convoys from Libya across the Sahara desert to Chad in December. 

A first convoy left Al Khufra at the end of December and Since then, 14 convoys brought almost 30,000 tons of sorghum and split peas to the camps in Eastern Chad.