(CNN) -- Attacks on its humanitarian convoys are forcing the U.N. World Food Programme to cut the rations it provides to millions of hungry people in Sudan's war-stricken Darfur region by about half, the agency said Thursday.
The cuts are to start in May, the WFP said, because "banditry against WFP-contracted trucks is preventing sufficient stocks of vital food relief from getting through."
Kenro Oshidari, WFP representative in Sudan, said in a written statement that the Sudanese government provides some police escorts for convoys on the main routes, "but unfortunately the frequency is not enough to maintain the food pipeline."
Oshidari said a meeting is planned to increase the convoys, and appealed to the rebels to ensure security on the roads. "If the security situation on the roads improves, we will be able to restore the ration levels," he said.
Josette Sheeran, WFP's executive director, issued a statement saying that "attacks on the WFP food pipeline are an attack on the most vulnerable people in Darfur. With up to 3 million people depending on us for their survival in the upcoming rainy season, keeping WFP's supply line open is a matter of life and death. We call on all parties to protect the access to food."
Ahead of the rainy season, which lasts from May into September, WFP trucks should be delivering 1,800 metric tons (1,984 short tons) of food to warehouses in Darfur, WFP said. However, deliveries have dropped to fewer than 900 metric tons (992 short tons) per day, it said.
Since January, 60 WFP-contracted trucks have been hijacked in Darfur, the agency said. More than half -- 39 -- are still missing, and 26 drivers are unaccounted for. One driver was killed in Darfur last month, WFP said.
The United Nations estimates that violence in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced at least 2 million.
The United States has described the violence in Darfur as "genocide," with nomadic Arab militias targeting pastoral black Africans. A U.N. commission concluded in 2005 that the Sudanese government and militias "conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement."
The WFP also has had difficulty with its trucks elsewhere in Sudan. Last week, a trucker for WFP and his assistant were shot and killed in southern Sudan while they were delivering food, the agency said.
The incident occurred near Mayom, not far from where two WFP-contracted drivers were stabbed to death last month. E-mail to a friend