Hunger Grips Thousands Displaced by Inter-Communal Violence in Darfur

The World Food Program is scaling up food assistance to tens of thousands of people displaced by intercommunal violence in Sudan’s explosive Darfur region.

United Nations agencies say an estimated 250 people have been killed and more than 100,000 forced to flee their homes following violent clashes between the Arab and Massalit tribes in mid-January in West and South Darfur.

The U.N.s World Food Program reports around 70,000 of the displaced are gathered in more than 70 centers across El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Agency spokesman Tomson Phiri says people are in a weakened condition, many suffering from moderate or acute malnutrition.

He says the WFP has begun an emergency food distribution program, which so far has managed to reach 40,000 people in 30 of these centers.

“Assistance is comprised of the staple sorghum,” said Phiri. “We also are providing pulses and salt to enable people to make meals as well as high energy biscuits, which provide immediate nutrition for children and adults without the need for water or cooking.”

Phiri says the WFP plans to expand its food assistance program when assessments are completed, and the needs are known. He says his agency is extremely concerned about continuing violence in the region.

He notes most people are subsistence farmers and depend on tilling the soil for their livelihoods. He says the period between November and January is the winter planting season and the main millet and sorghum harvesting season.

“Even a momentary burst of violent disruption of livelihood activities, can have a long-lasting impact,” said Phiri. “If a planting or a harvesting period is missed, it may not be resumed. If livestock cannot be moved to pasture or water, they may not survive.”

The WFP is joining other agencies in renewing calls for an end to the violence in Darfur. It warns the fighting is having a severe adverse effect on the local population and if it continues food shortages and hunger will grow.