WFP needs US $87 million to feed refugees, locals

Before rains shortly make Chad’s dirt roads impracticable, the World Food Programme (WFP) needs a first chunk of US $87 million of food aid for Sudanese refugees who have fled across the border into Chad, as well as for the local population.

Two to three months ahead of the rains, the organisation on Tuesday appealed for at least $14 million in immediate contributions to enable the pre-positioning of stocks in 11 refugee camps strung along the border with Sudan. This will help avoid shortages at the height of the wet season.

“Once the rains begin, most of the camps become completely inaccessible by road. Getting supplies in place now will go a long way to avoid the necessity of expensive airlifts and airdrops further down the line,” WFP Chad country director Stefano Poretti said in a statement.

“We need to get food here by road before it is too late,” he added.

WFP said it was appealing for a total US $87 million in aid to cover needs until the end of next year in eastern Chad.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, last week estimated at 197,000 the number of Sudanese refugees who have fled to camps in the vast desert nation to escape the violence in western Sudan, where pro-government forces and militias are fighting non-Arab rebels.

UNHCR is planning to open in May a 12th refugee camp, 60 km from Abeche, the main town in eastern Chad, to decongest the overcrowded camps.

WFP also plans to provide food to over 150,000 Chadians whose quality of life can be worse at times than that of refugees who sleep in tents and have regular food rations, said the agency spokesman in Dakar, Marcus Prior.

Host populations had offered remarkable hospitality to the Sudanese refugees in the past two years, he said, but the sharing of scarce resources had taken its toll and they were critically in need of assistance.

Help would be provided notably through supplementary feeding programmes for the vulnerable, food-for-work and seed distribution, he said.

Chad’s Director of Emergency Operations at the National Food Security Office, Moussa Ben Ali, told IRIN that in the Wadifirai and Ouaddai areas where the last agricultural harvest was poor, local people were complaining they needed help.

“Today the refugees are housed and fed in camps and have drinking water while the local people has been left aside,” he said.

WFP has also appealed for an additional US $7 million to maintain a vital air service that ferries humanitarian personnel and materiel between the capital N’djamena and the refugee camps in the south and east. The air link is particularly useful at the height of the rainy season.