WFP Executive Director arrives in Sudan on her first mission to Africa

KHARTOUM - On her first visit to Africa since taking the helm of the United Nations World Food Programme earlier this month, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran arrived today in Sudan for talks with the government and to see food assistance at work in the western region of Darfur and the South.

"Sudan is WFP's biggest operation in the world and one of my top priorities on taking up this post was to view our work at first hand and to meet with some of the 5.5 million people we plan to feed this year throughout the country," said Sheeran.

Sheeran arrived in Khartoum from Ethiopia, where she spoke to economists, traders and market experts about local food assistance procurement and its potential for making a positive impact on human development by helping poor farmers access markets and assist in ending chronic food insecurity.

In Khartoum, she meets government officials and WFP staff before travelling to North Darfur and southern Sudan.

In North Darfur, Sheeran will go to Kutum, about 100 kilometres northwest of El Fasher, to visit the Kassab camp for displaced people and meet women residents and distribute hand mills for grinding cereals. More than 22,000 displaced people receive WFP food at Kassab - about 80 percent of them women. WFP fed more than 2 million displaced people in Darfur last month.

The next day, she flies to Juba in the south and is scheduled to meet government officials, including Minister of Roads and Transport Rebecca Garang, and visit a WFP-supported school feeding programme.

Earlier in April, WFP announced a shift in its food assistance strategy in southern Sudan. The end of the north-south war in 2005, and two years of good harvests, have reduced the need for emergency food assistance, prompting WFP to increase its work aimed at recovery and development.

"With the end of the war in southern Sudan, people are finally able to rebuild their lives. We will work side by side with them in moving away from dependence on food assistance to full recovery," said Sheeran.

School feeding in southern Sudan will triple to 450,000 students this year, while Food for Work projects will increase by 25 percent in the south. This year, WFP plans to provide three-month rations to 430,000 people who are expected to return to the south to start rebuilding their lives.

Following her three-day visit to Sudan, Sheeran proceeds to Chad for meetings in N'Djamena.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People..

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