Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned t hat banditry is hindering the delivery of vital food aid on the ground in Sudan' s war-ravaged Darfur region, but limited funding could ground the air transport s e rvice it runs.
"This is an unprecedented situation," said Kenro Oshidari, WFP's Sudan Represent ative, said on Monday.
"Our humanitarian air operation for aid workers could be forced to stop flying b ecause we have no money, at a time when our helicopters are needed more than eve r because of high insecurity on the roads," he said in a statement released in Ac c ra by the UN Information Centre.
At present, WFP is transporting only half as much food to Darfur as it normally would at this time of the year because truckers are not willing to risk making d e liveries on the dangerous roads.
There are some 60,000 metric tons of WFP food aid – enough to feed the two milli on people in Sudan who are now relying on the agency's assistance – in the regio n .
WFP said needs were expected to surge by 50 per cent as the May-October rainy se ason approached, but the agency could be forced to slash rations in some areas.
This year alone, five of the agency's passenger vehicles and 45 trucks contracte d by WFP have been hijacked, and 37 trucks remain missing with 23 drivers unacco u nted for.
In the most recent incident, on 4 March, seven trucks were stolen and the driver s abducted while on their way to El Fasher, in North Darfur.
The bandits unloaded the food and left it behind, driving off with the vehicles.
Meanwhile, for its budget of $77 million this year, WFP's Humanitarian Air Servi ce (WFP-HAS) – utilized by approximately 8,000 humanitarian workers per month, 3 , 000 of whom use helicopters to reach remote areas – has received no confirmed do n ations.
"Without an immediate contribution towards the $6.
2 million needed for monthly c osts, the Service will be forced to halt operations," WFP said.
Most passengers using WFP-HAS, which began operations in 2004, are staff members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance in health care, w a ter and sanitation or food relief.
"With a recent upsurge in insecurity in West Darfur and increased banditry on th e roads throughout the region, the air operation is more important that ever," s a id Mr.
Oshidari, noting the heavy reliance of the humanitarian community on the S ervice.
"If it (is) shut down, even for a brief period, vital relief would be denied to vulnerable civilians in Darfur.
" Meanwhile, troops from the hybrid UN-African Union (AU) peacekeeping operation d eployed to Darfur, known as UNAMID, have donated their own warm clothes and blan k ets to internally displaced persons (IDPs) taking refuge in Mallit, a small town in North Darfur.
"We have come to realize that Darfur still has a long way to go," said one soldi er who preferred to stay anonymous.
"Yet we are believers that each and every on e of us as individuals can and has to make a difference.
" UNAMID peacekeepers also contributed their own money towards purchasing statione ry and school fees to ensure that one of the pre-schools in Mallit re-opened to h old new classes.