Funding was assured over the weekend to break up a bottleneck keeping thousands of tons of grain from reaching three drought-stricken regions in Sudan, U.S. officials said yesterday.
According to officials at the Agency for International Development, a cable was sent to the U.S. AID mission in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, authorizing transport of 60,000 tons of the 100,000 tons of sorghum that has been in storage for months at the Red Sea port of Port Sudan.
Delays in transporting the grain, particularly to the hard-hit western Darfur and Kordofan regions, had led to frustration among relief workers there.
AID officials said the situation in Kordofan, Sudan's westernmost province, had deteriorated rapidly, and the agency decided last Thursday to earmark $7.6 million to pay for the U.S. share of shipping the grain there. But U.S. policy is to pay for only half the costs of transporting grain inside Sudan, and difficulty in pinning down the remaining funding slowed relief efforts.
Some of the private relief organizations working in Kordofan had estimated that there was but a week's supply of food rations available in Kordofan, and four organizations held a news conference in London last Tuesday in which it was projected that as many as 4 million Sudanese were in danger of starvation.
According to an AID official, the Band Aid organization of Irish entertainer Bob Geldof has agreed to match $1.8 million of U.S. funds to ship grain to Kordofan, which the official estimated would pay for the shipment of about 30,000 tons. Another 23,000 will be shipped to Darfur, with Save the Children-United Kingdom matching about $2.2 million.
About 7,000 tons of grain will be sent to the Central Province, where the need is acute but not as many people are threatened, the same official said. The matching funds for that grain will be provided by the World Vision Relief Organization.