GENEVA (AP) – The U.N. food agency said Friday it is halving rations to about 3 million people in Sudan’s embattled Darfur region because of a shortage of funds, calling it a last resort and “scandalous.”
The World Food Program said it will cut rations from 2,100 calories per person, the daily minimum requirement, to 1,050.
“This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Haven’t the people of Darfur suffered enough?” said WFP chief James Morris.
Donor governments have given WFP only US$238 million (¤191 million) of the US$746 million (¤598 million) it appealed for this year for the whole of Sudan, WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told reporters in Geneva.
“WFP has to cut the food rations to millions of vulnerable people in Sudan,” Berthiaume said. “It’s scandalous that people don’t have enough to eat.”
By cutting daily rations, WFP says its limited food stocks will last longer through the region’s rainy season from July to September, when needs are greatest before the next harvest.
“We cannot put families who have lost their homes and loved ones to violence on a 1,000 calorie a day diet. But we have been pushed into this last resort of ration cuts in Sudan so we can provide the needy with at least some food during the lean season,” Morris said. “This is a measure we should simply never have to take. Our donors were really supportive in 2005, they cannot be less so in 2006,” he added.
The agency said it was particularly concerned about the effects of its decision in Darfur because the insecurity there means that people are suffering even more.
Fighting in Darfur began in February 2003 when rebels from black African tribes took up arms, complaining of discrimination and oppression by Sudan’s Arab-dominated government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson.
More than 180,000 people have died in the conflict. Some 3 million have been driven from their homes. “What is deeply disturbing is that these funding shortages threaten the gains made last year by humanitarian agencies in Darfur, where malnutrition levels went down by half,” Morris said. “We were making great progress.”
Similar cuts in food rations will also be made in eastern Sudan, where WFP helps Eritrean refugees and displaced families.