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Funding gap forces UN agency to cut food rations in Darfur

New York, 8 AprilĀ 2005
With United Nations officials preparing for a donors' conference next week to raise reconstruction funds for southern Sudan, the World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that a drastic shortage of money will force the agency to cut the rations of more than one million people affected by the separate conflict in the country's western region of Darfur.

WFP said that starting in May it will have to cut by half the non-cereal part of the daily ration, 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.

"The people of Darfur need urgent aid. They don't have other options," 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 the drastic cut will not affect programmes for malnourished children and nursing mothers, WFP said it was very concerned about the effects it will have on the health and psychological well-being of thousands of people already weakened and traumatized bay war.

Other UN agencies warned that lagging funding, along with poor security throughout the war-torn area on Sudan's western flank, may imperil other relief efforts. Cautioning that the next 18 months were likely to be very difficult, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that due to the security situation, it only has access to 5 to 10 per cent of the territories and one third of the 6 million inhabitants in the three Darfur states.

Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will travel to Oslo, Norway, to address the opening on Monday of a two-day donor conference for Sudan, organized by the Norwegian Government. The gathering will be the primary forum for the international community to pledge support for the reconstruction phase that started with the signing of a peace agreement on 9 January, which officially ended the two-decade-long civil war in Sudan's south.

The Acting High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Wendy Chamberlin, will also attend the conference before heading to Darfur to get a first-hand look at the agency's operations there. Some 550,000 refugees and an estimated 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) from south Sudan remained uprooted.

In Oslo, she plans to brief the donors on UNHCR's urgent funding needs. The agency had been seeking $60 million for its return and reintegration programme in south Sudan, but says that so far, less than $5 million had been received. The agency's budget for operations in Darfur is more than $31 million but less than $2 million has been received.
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