Chad UN warns rising tensions could threaten food for hundreds of thousands

Rising tensions and reported preparations for armed attacks in Chad threaten to make an already highly complex logistical operation to feed hundreds of thousands of Chadians and Sudanese even more difficult, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today, the second such caution in two weeks.“Even under normal circumstances, WFP’s operation in eastern Chad teeters on the brink,” WFP country director Stefano Porretti said. “We want to ensure that the world is aware of how dire the situation could become for those people – both displaced Chadians and refugees from Darfur – who depend on our assistance.” A WFP-led food security assessment mission which has just returned from eastern Chad, bordering the strife-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, said that while the situation was not yet cause for alarm, the food stocks of some 50,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were rapidly being depleted as they share their limited resources with around 20,000 people hosting them. “We need to work fast now to avoid any sudden deterioration in these people’s nutritional status,” Mr. Porretti said. “We are aiming to launch seed protection activities in areas which can be cultivated, so that Chadians remain self-sufficient for as long as possible. No general food distributions are planned at the moment, but we are keeping a close eye on how the situation evolves.” April and May are critical months for maintaining supplies of food, with WFP striving to pre-position enough food for six months in each of the 12 refugee camps in the east, which shelter more than 200,000 Sudanese overall, before the annual rains make road transport impossible.If truck convoys through Libya and Cameroon remain free to move, WFP is on target to get the food in place, but if insecurity forces delays, there will be serious consequences for deliveries. Shortages during the rainy season can only be made up by expensive air-drops, something WFP is keen to avoid.The closure of the border between Chad and Sudan after the rebel assault on the Chadian capital of capital N’Djamena in April could have a serious impact on WFP operations in West Darfur, where the agency is currently feeding a total of 500,000 people. Much of the food for the needy in West Darfur arrives from Libya via Chad, but the border closure has rendered this route unusable. As the annual ‘hunger season’ begins to bite, it is certain that many of the displaced Chadians, as well as the communities hosting them, will run out of food and require emergency assistance. WFP’s $87 million emergency operation in eastern Chad is currently only 60 per cent funded and further contributions are vital to ensure food deliveries to the camps following the rainy season until the end of the year.

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