International aid groups are
having increasing difficulty delivering food to the starving. The major new obstacle
is banditry, and the gangs of gunmen who are stealing the food as it is being
trucked from a port to the inland areas where it is needed. A major reason for
the increased theft, is the rapid increase in the price of grain. A year ago,
rice went for $200-300 a ton. Now it's about a thousand dollars a ton. This
makes it much more lucrative to attack grain convoys, despite the armed guards
that often accompany them. With a big enough payday, the bandits can muster a
large enough force to overwhelm the grain convoy guards.
Darfur and Afghanistan are the places where the grain bandits are most active.
The stolen food is sold to local grain merchants, who then sell the food for
whatever the market will bear. The aid groups are responding by trying to get
tribal elders to accompany the convoys, when travelling through areas known to
be preyed on by bandits from the same tribe. More security guards are another solution,
but this also drives up the cost of delivering the food. Currently, transport and
security is increasing cost of food aid by up to 50 percent. Many donors are no
longer willing to donate money or grain for places where lots of banditry, and
other bad behavior, take place.