The World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended its operations across Sudan’s North Darfur state following attacks this week on all three of its warehouses in the capital, El Fasher, including the theft of more than 5,000 metric tons (tonnes) of food.
The move is expected to affect close to two million people in the area in 2022, the United Nations’ food agency said in a statement on Thursday.
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“We have been forced to suspend WFP operations in North Darfur, effective immediately,” said David Beasley, WFP executive director.
“This theft has robbed nearly two million people of the food and nutrition support they so desperately need. Not only is this a tremendous setback to our operations across the country, but it endangers our staff and jeopardises our ability to meet the needs of the most vulnerable families.”
WFP has urged Sudanese authorities to recover the looted stocks and guarantee the security and safety of its operations in North Darfur.
Sudan is one of the poorest counties in the world, with nearly 11 million people in need of food security and livelihood assistance in 2022.
The country’s state-run news agency SUNA reported that a number of suspects were arrested in El Fasher after they were seen riding trucks and animal-drawn carts loaded with food stocks allegedly stolen from the WFP warehouses.
WFP said the losses in El Fasher cannot be replenished with stocks currently in Sudan without compromising assistance meant for vulnerable people in other parts of the country.
The suspension comes amid political upheaval that followed a military coup in October.
The power grab has derailed a transition that began after long-ruling President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown following popular protests in 2019.
Huge crowds of people have taken to the streets nationwide to protest against military rule since the October 25 coup. They have been met with violent repression, with more than 50 people killed by security forces, according to medics.