348508_44124480466@N01.jpg Sudanese baby Africa Oil Watch: WFP Reaches Agreement With Sudan Rebels on Food Aid

Saturday, August 14, 2004

WFP Reaches Agreement With Sudan Rebels on Food Aid

Aug 14, 2004 Geneva - This is the second report I've seen re the curious story of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) reaching an agreement with the Darfur rebels on food aid.

Over the past three months, it's been as clear as mud to me exactly why it was so difficult to get aid into (and news out of) Darfur. Were the Darfur rebels holed up in Darfur all along and the area was blocked by Sudanese forces stopping the rebels from getting out of Darfur and aid getting into Darfur? Or were the Darfur rebels stopping the aid from getting through to Darfur? Why does the report here say that the UN food trucks not attacked were subjected to bureaucratic and other delays by the SLA and JEM?

Did the Janjaweed pose as rebels and attack aid trucks to stir up trouble and bad press for the rebels? I'm still not clear on this -- seems there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Whatever, it is an under reported story that the U.N. is not saying a lot about. And, for some reason, we do not hear much about what the rebels are up to -- it's always the Janjaweed. How does one even know that the rebels aren't posing as Janjaweed to get the international community to put more pressure on Khartoum?

The U.N. wastes no time in getting its press releases out about needing more money and blaming aid delivery delays on donors and rain -- causing WFP to run low on funds because they had to resort to costly air drops. I never did find out what happened after they air dropped food into Darfur: who was on the ground in the flooded areas and rain to pick up the food and distribute? The U.N. only reports what it wants us to know. I'm not implying here any sort of wrong-doing, it's just interesting to follow a story closely enough to note the gaps in reporting. I find there is lack of reporting on what the rebels have been doing these past three months, which does make the news not very balanced -- bearing in mind the US have had special forces on the ground, dribs and drabs of all sorts of observers, monitors, aid workers etc., from all over the world have entered Sudan -- and yet the news we get to hear is, in my view, sanitised to the point of not being informative at all.

Here is a copy in full of the above report:

The World Food Program says it has reached an agreement with two rebel groups in Sudan's troubled Darfur region to give the agency access to areas under their control, so the WFP can assess food needs at camps for internally displaced people.

An estimated 1.5 million internally displaced people are living in 153 camps in Darfur. A spokeswoman for the World Food Program, Christiane Berthiaume, says her agency has been able to get access to 119 of these.

She says fighters claiming to be rebels have held up United Nations food trucks in recent weeks. And those that are not attacked are subjected to bureaucratic and other delays by members of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.
"So, we hope that, with this agreement, we will have access to more people in need. We have already made an assessment in one of these places. It is in rural Kutum, where we found 13-thousand people in need of food aid, and we hope to be able to do more of these kinds of assessments, because, as you can imagine, before bringing food into a camp, we have to go see what are the needs."

Ms. Berthiaume says the agreement will allow WFP to start registering people in the camps and to evaluate their needs. She says it is important to know how much food is needed, and what kind. For example, she explains, malnourished people require special high-protein food.

She says registering people is also important, because it is a way of making sure that the right people get the food.
"And also for us, the registration is important because that will tell us how much, what amount of food you need to bring into a camp. … We cannot take the risk of not bringing enough food into a camp. Because, can you imagine if we do not bring enough food the riots that could occur because we would not have enough for everybody."

It is raining heavily in Darfur. Many roads are impassable. Over the past two weeks, the World Food Program has airdropped nearly one-thousand tons of food to areas that are completely cut off from road traffic.

If the agreement with the rebel groups is honored, Ms. Berthiaume says, aid workers should be able to reach their target of feeding one-point-two million hungry people this month.

This, she says, would bode well for deliveries in the coming months. She says the number of people who will need food assistance by October is expected to increase to two-million.

This article uses material from VOA.


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