A warehouse of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, was subjected to looting by large crowds of people on Tuesday evening, despite attempts by police to prevent the theft. The looting was reportedly initiated by armed men using six four-wheel drive vehicles, after which members of the public joined the free-for-all. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan has condemned the theft of “food assistance meant for Sudan’s most vulnerable people”.
Witnesses from El Fasher told Radio Dabanga that the police shot into the air to stop the crowds from looting food and relief items in WFP warehouse No. 3, that faces the El Fasher Stock Exchange, east of the Children’s Hospital. Despite of the police action, the looting continued, and the crowds were seen carrying sacks of goods on carts and loaded onto draught animals.
In a press statement today, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Khardiata Lo N’Diaye condemns the looting. “The United Nations and humanitarian partners are extremely concerned about the reports from North Darfur that humanitarian assets came under attack. This was food assistance meant for Sudan’s most vulnerable people. Humanitarian assistance should never be a target,” said Lo N’Diaye.
The coordinator points out that “one in three people in Sudan needs humanitarian assistance. Such an attack severely impedes our ability to deliver to the people who need it the most. We urgently ask all parties to adhere to humanitarian principles and allow the safe delivery of life-saving assistance.”
According to initial reports, the WFP warehouse contained up to 1,900 tonnes of food, meant for hundreds of thousands of food-insecure people in that area. This comes amid unprecedented funding shortfalls for WFP, estimated at US$358 million. As of 29 December, the security situation had been restored, according to state authorities, the UN coordinator’s statement says.
“We are grateful to the local authorities for intervening and preventing the situation from worsening. However, we call upon the government of Sudan to step up efforts to protect and safeguard humanitarian premises and assets throughout Sudan” she concluded.
An estimated 14.3 million people in Sudan are need humanitarian assistance according to the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, of which 25 per cent require food security and livelihoods support.
As previously reported by Radio Dabanga, police in North Darfur say that they have arrested two suspects, after buildings and containers of equipment at the former African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) logistical base north of the capital El Fasher, were looted on Friday and Saturday. The suspects were reportedly held with part of the loot in their possession.
The northern part of the UNAMID Super Camp was handed over to the North Darfur state authorities last week by Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (DSRSG), and Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Khardiata Lo N’Diaye. During the handover, Lo N’Diaye underlined the importance of continued support to the UNAMID liquidation team, and highlighted the need for the camp and the facilities within it to be used for the benefit of the people of Darfur.
The ongoing insecurity in Darfur, often partly exacerbated by the vacuum created by the UNAMID drawdown, has meant that the practicalities of the handover of UNAMID sites and facilities have not always gone as planned.
On June 5, two people were killed and eight others sustained injuries when a former UNAMID site in Shangil Tobaya, Dar El Salaam locality, south of El Fasher in North Darfur was looted.
The site was handed over to the Government of Sudan on May 25. It was the last of 14 deep field sites handed over to the Sudanese government. At the time, the North Darfur government and the Sudanese government’s joint task force strongly reconfirmed their commitment to ensure civilian use of the former site.
Since the mission ended its mandate at the end of last year, various former UNAMID sites handed over to local authorities to be used as schools or training centres, have been looted. In February, a site in North Darfur’s Saraf Omra that was earmarked for use as a vocational training centre was looted and ‘levelled’ just weeks after it was handed over to the Sudanese government.