NAIROBI, 20 June (IRIN) - The UN food agency has appealed for an additional US $94 million to buy more food for an estimated 3.5 million people who could go hungry as a result of the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
Additional food aid will be required to carry people through the annual August-October "hunger season". This year, more than half the entire population of Darfur would need food aid during this time, the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement released on Friday.
The funds would be used to acquire an extra 84,000 mt of food and enable the agency to raise its monthly target to 3.25 million out of the 3.5 million people in Darfur who are in need.
"The Darfur conflict is now sadly halfway through its third year. In May, WFP fed 1.8 million people in Darfur, most of them stranded in camps after being forced from their homes and farms," said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, WFP's country director in Sudan.
"But large numbers of others can no longer provide for themselves because of insecurity, drought, the poor harvest last year and with local markets closed. They don't live in camps, but are all caught in the same Darfur trap and urgently need our help to survive," he said.
The revised WFP operation in Darfur foresees the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) remaining at 1.5 million. The agency estimates, however, that the number of non-IDPs in need of assistance will peak at two million in the coming months and include a significant number of pastoralists.
As the hunger season worsens, waterborne diseases are expected to push malnutrition rates higher.
Insecurity, conflict and a poor harvest have disrupted livelihoods, impeded traditional migration and trade routes and blocked the return of IDPs to their homes, WFP said.
Reduced movements of nomads have led to overgrazing in areas with insufficient water and caused drought-like conditions. Fighting has prevented the traditional export of camels to neighbouring markets and cattle sales within and outside Darfur, dramatically decreasing pastoralists' purchasing power, the agency said.
WFP has received $324 million out of the $561.5 million required for its revised emergency operation, leaving a shortfall of 42 percent.
Violence erupted in Darfur in February 2003 when rebels took up arms in a bid to end what they said was state discrimination and marginalisation of the region's ethnic African inhabitants.
The war pits Sudanese government troops and militias - allegedly allied to the government - against the rebels.
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