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KHARTOUM – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed an Italian donation of Euros 1 million (US$1.2 million) towards its emergency operation in Sudan, which is providing food assistance to more than 6.1 million people throughout 2006.

The emergency food aid is for displaced families and those affected by the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, as well as for people living in the South, East and the Three Areas (formerly the transitional areas) of the country. To date, the operation has suffered from the slow arrival of donor funds, with a critical shortage of untied cash contributions that can be used to transport food commodities.

“We are extremely grateful for the timing and the nature of Italy’s donation,” said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, WFP’s Regional Director for Sudan. “This contribution has made it possible to send 1,000 metric tons of food to those in urgent need of assistance.”

While the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the war in the South marked a turning point for Sudan, the need for food assistance remains. “In the long term, Sudan has the potential to produce enough food for all its people, but that will take time to achieve,” Lopes da Silva said.

In the South and the Three Areas of Sudan, hundreds of thousands of returnees need food assistance to get them through the first difficult months before they can become self-sustaining.

“It is crucial that the international community maintains support for the Sudanese during this period of bringing about peace. The damage caused by decades of civil war will not disappear overnight. And in Darfur, of course, a separate peace agreement is still required before we can even begin to talk about the displaced families leaving the camps.”

The conflict in Darfur is still raging, causing further misery. Some families have been forced to flee fighting for a second or even third time. More than 1.7 million people are obliged to live in camps for the displaced, while others have sought safety across the border in Chad.

Unable to farm or engage in their normal livelihoods, food assistance is their only lifeline. Even those who remain in their homes have been affected by the conflict, which has cut access to normal markets as well as grazing. At the height of the hunger gap in October last year, WFP fed more than 2.7 million people in Darfur.

In all, WFP requires US$ 746 million for its emergency operation in Sudan in 2006. However it has just 31 percent of that amount, leaving a shortfall of US$ 511 million.

Donors to WFP’s 2006 Sudan emergency operation include: the United States (US$ 188 million); United Nations Common Humanitarian Fund (US$ 13 million); Libya (US$4.5 million); Canada (US$ 3.9 million); Ireland (US$ 1.2 million); Italy (US$ 1.2 million); Switzerland (US$ 757,575); Belgium (US$ 604,595); Norway (US$ 317,388); Private (US$ 20,000).