French military planes have completed an airlift of nearly 200 tonnes of food supplements for malnourished Sudanese refugees living in camps in eastern Chad, the UN World Food Programme said on Tuesday.
WFP said 162 tonnes of priority foods, such as sugar and protein-rich corn soya blend, were flown from N'djamena, the capital of Chad, to Abeche, the main town in the east of the country, from where the food was distributed to nearby refugee camps.
The airlift began in early August and ended last week with the dispatch of a further 36 tonnes of food from N'djamena to Goz Beida, a town 210 km south of Abeche, it added.
The airlift became necessary because heavy rain since July has made most of the dirt roads in eastern Chad impassible.
“This contribution by the French government has allowed WFP to keep a steady flow of food moving to the refugee camps,” said WFP Country Representative Philippe Guyon Le Bouffy.
“Delivering food aid in eastern Chad is a huge logistical challenge every step of the way, especially during the rainy season, and we appreciate this exceptional service to help us in that mission,” he added.
Nearly 200,000 refugees from Sudan's troubled Darfur region have fled to eastern Chad. Most of them now live in a chain of nine camps established by international relief agencies at least 50 km away from the frontier.
Last month, WFP launched a blanket feeding programme to reduce high levels of malnutrition detected in the refugee camps. This aims to provide supplements of especially nutritious food, such as sugar and corn soya blend, to more than 50,000 children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Most food aid to the refugee camps in eastern Chad is trucked in from the Atlantic port of Douala in Cameroon. However, since the annual rainy season has made the roads in southern Chad all but impassible, WFP has resorted to trucking food aid across the Sahara desert from Libya as well.
The first trial food convoy from the Libyan port of Benghazi on the Mediterranean, arrived in eastern Chad last week carrying 440 tonnes of wheat flour. The next trans-Sahara convoy from Libya is expected to leave in October.
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