Sudan: 6.7 million people need food aid

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on 17 February 2006 said that while Sudan was likely to reap a reasonably good harvest in 2005/2006, almost 7 million people would still require food aid over the coming year. Most of the needy have either been forced to flee their homes due to fighting or are in the process of returning home following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Moreover, vulnerable households for the most part will be unable to benefit from the harvest due to the prevailing high cereal prices.

The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Sudan, carried out in late 2005, found that the country's overall cereal production in 2005/2006 amounted to about 5.3 million tonnes, 55 per cent higher than the very poor harvest in 2004/2005 and 17 per cent above the average of the previous five years. Favourable rainfall, low incidence of pests and diseases, improved security in southern Sudan and slightly improved security in Darfur during planting time that started in May 2005 resulted in an increased area of cultivation. The total cultivated land across the country was 57 per cent more than that of the previous year.

"This is a heartening picture compared to previous years, and the people of Sudan need all the help they can get, particularly from nature. But many also need the help of the international community, especially in the troubled region of Darfur and in southern Sudan, which is just beginning to recover from more than 20 years of civil war", said WFP Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva.

Despite the estimated above-average crop production, the Assessment Mission found that some 6.7 million people would require about 800,000 tonnes of targeted food assistance in 2006. These beneficiaries include more than 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 900,000 returnees and close to 3.5 million highly vulnerable people in Darfur and the marginal areas of central and eastern parts of Sudan. Unequal income distribution, problems of physical and financial access to food due to war, displacement and poor infrastructure, a weak marketing system and economic isolation are some of the main factors behind the food insecurity of millions of people and their exposure to destitution, hunger and malnutrition.

The Mission also found that the timely provision of appropriate seeds and tools in 2005 by FAO and other humanitarian agencies benefited a large number of needy farmers. A WFP road rehabilitation project in the south has increased trade, especially between Uganda and the state of Central Equatoria, as well as between Kenya and the state of Eastern Equatoria. But attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army in the south remain a constant threat to any return to normal living. Some key roads remain impassable, thereby inhibiting large-scale trade.

WFP plans to mobilize and distribute 731,000 tonnes of food to more than 6 million people across Sudan in 2006. In addition, assistance will be provided through support for recovery activities and therapeutic and supplementary feeding projects to ensure that the most vulnerable are reached. FAO appealed for $40 million to support its agricultural relief and recovery activities throughout Sudan in 2006, which include the distribution of seeds and tools, fishing equipment and livestock medicines to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families, particularly returnees and IDPs.

"Timely assistance to the agricultural sector, including emergency support to returnees and other vulnerable farming communities before the start of the next cropping season in April/May in southern Sudan and June/July in northern Sudan, is urgently required", said Henri Josserand, Chief of the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System.