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Food security is UMCOR priority in Sudan

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A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey/UMCOR

Women in South Darfur receive non-food items from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
July 18, 2005

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Concentrating on food security, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is assisting both displaced people and local communities in the Sudan.

In April, UMCOR directors approved a start-up budget of more than $1 million for the work in Sudan. The focus is on the distribution of non-food items, agriculture work and promoting small-scale farming in Southern Darfur.

The agency also is helping manage the El Ferdous IDP (internally displaced persons) camp, according to Jane Ohuma, UMCOR's head of mission in Sudan.

The objective of the food security project is to provide the displaced people with additional sources of food and cash income. Many of the displaced are subsistence farmers, Ohuma said, who are no longer able to grow their own food and raise money from their farms.

Although the World Food Program provides monthly food rations, "the amount is not enough to meet all their basic requirements (for items) such as soap, fees for their children's education and clothing," Ohuma reported.

Some displaced persons are paid for work on the farms of local residents, while others share crops with landowners. Some rent empty land, paying with part of the final harvest. "It is a mixture of many strategies," she said.

For host communities, UMCOR wants to stabilize local economies that have been burdened by the influx of internally displaced persons and restore livelihoods from agriculture. "The situation has been compounded by the cyclical drought conditions over the past two seasons," Ohuma added.

A major contributor to the agriculture project is Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. The congregation made a $311,448 grant to UMCOR.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey/UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief is providing seeds and agricultural tools to displaced families in Sudan.
Seeds and tools were purchased by UMCOR from local distributors and blacksmiths in early May and distributed in May and June. Distribution centers were in areas that were "considered to be highly productive in peanutS and cereals" and more stable in terms of security.

A total of 3,624 displaced families and 1,584 local (host) families at El Ferdous, Abu Matariq, Abu Jabra, Kediek and Ryiadth benefited from the seed and tools distribution.

UMCOR also has constructed a reception center in El Ferdous IDP camp - south of Nyala, the regional capital of South Darfur - and is assuming overall management of camp activities, Ohuma said. "We are also putting up a proposal for the management of five other camps, although a specific donor is yet to be identified."

Action by Churches Together, of which UMCOR is a member, has a joint humanitarian response in the Darfur province with Caritas, a confederation of Catholic relief and social service agencies.

ACT/Caritas is raising funds to provide shelter, water, sanitation and basic sleeping and kitchen materials to 325,000 people in southern Darfur. They have been displaced into camps, live near their burned-out villages or act as host communities. The program also will provide education for school children and supplementary food to 15,000 children under age 5.

Paul Jeffrey, a United Methodist missionary who visited Darfur recently to take photographs for the relief groups, noted that while developments in the peace talks are hopeful, the struggle over scarce resources and justice and security issues is not over.

"While the government has begun to encourage people to leave the camps and return home, in most cases that's not possible simply because their security can't be guaranteed," he said. Women also face the threat of rape if they venture outside the camps.

The presence of African Union troops in a few places like Labado has allowed some families to return to their villages, where aid organizations can help them begin to rebuild their lives. But that presence is limited, he pointed out.

"I was impressed while there by the commitment of the agencies - including UMCOR - that make up the ACT/Caritas program to respond quickly and appropriately to the needs of the displaced," Jeffrey told United Methodist News Service.

The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and the Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR's top executive, issued a joint statement expressing "cautious optimism" about the news in early July that ground rules have been announced to resolve the conflict in Darfur.

"We are grateful to the African Union for its persistence in working toward a political solution in the face of formidable challenges," the statement said.

Donations for "Sudan Emergency," Advance No. 184385, can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. To make a credit-card donation, call (800) 554-8583.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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