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KHARTOUM – The World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a donation of US$8.7 million from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development earmarked for the United Nations food agency’s giant road works project in southern Sudan.

WFP is rebuilding more than 3,000 kilometres of roads in the war-ravaged region at a cost of US$183 million. Two decades of fighting between the north and the south, which ended last year, almost completely destroyed southern Sudan’s road network.

If sufficient contributions are made, WFP will eventually open up the entire region and it should be possible to drive from the southern borders of Sudan to Khartoum and on to Egypt for the first time in a generation. However, the roads project currently faces a crippling funding shortfall of some US$70 million.

“The UK Government’s donation will allow us to continue our work for only so long. We urge donors to open their hearts and their wallets so we can finish the entire roads project on time and provide a peace dividend to the people of southern Sudan,” said WFP Sudan Regional Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva.

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity and timing of this UK donation,” he added. “As the wet season begins in just a few months, the British Government’s donation will help us to make urgently required interventions to keep strategic links open throughout.”

Lopes da Silva said the money would be used immediately to do emergency repairs to two bridges and sections of carriageway between Kaya on the Ugandan border and the town of Rumbek, which is WFP’s most important logistical hub within southern Sudan.

The money will also be spent clearing landmines from key roadways across the country. The latest contribution from the United Kingdom brings its total support for WFP’s emergency road repairs and mine clearance special operation to US$19 million since August 2004.

“The road project will dramatically reduce the cost of delivering goods and will facilitate the reopening of market linkages, which is crucial to rebuilding the country, provide a safe passage for hundreds of thousands of returning refugees and leave a lasting legacy to the people of Sudan long after WFP’s work is done,” said Lopes da Silva.

Apart from the roads, WFP requires US$746 million from donors in 2006 for its emergency operation to feed more than six million people in the South, Darfur, the East and Three Areas of Sudan.

Since late 2003, WFP has rebuilt roughly 1,400 kilometres of roads, repaired bridges and culverts, and removed and destroyed some 200,000 pieces of unexploded ordinance. Already into its final stages, the project has linked major towns across southern Sudan and reopened trade routes with neighbouring countries.

Specifically, WFP is close to completing the roads between the town of Yei and the southern capital Juba, a vital link used by traders coming from Uganda, and the key road between Narus, near the Kenyan border, and Juba. The road between the central town of Rumbek and Shambe, located on the White Nile, is half finished. Road works have also begun on the links between Rumbek and Tonj, in southern Sudan’s north, and Juba and Bor, also on the While Nile.

WFP’s Emergency Road Repair and Mine Clearance of Key Transport Routes in Sudan, requiring US$183 million, faces a shortfall of 39 percent. Donors include: the United States (US$72.5 million), the United Kingdom (US$19 million), Japan (US$10 million), Norway (US$3.6 million), the Netherlands (US$3.3 million), Italy (US$1.7 million), Switzerland (US$1.5 million), United Nations (US$1 million), Canada (US$847,000) and multilateral (US$85,000).