Sudanese basketball star and UN food agency join forces to urge aid

Aiming to generate support for the humanitarian relief operation in Darfur, Sudan, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United States National Basketball Association (NBA) Cares Foundation are teaming up to air a Public Service Announcement (PSA) during the current championship series featuring a Sudanese star player.“I need to tell you what’s going on in Sudan, which is where I’m from. Right now millions of kids are suffering. Their homes have been burned, their parents have been killed. They need food and shelter. They need your support,” says Luol Deng, the 21 year-old Chicago Bulls Player, of his native Sudan in the WFP PSA urging people to donate by visiting http://www.wfp.org or in the US visit http://www.friendsofwfp.org.Sudan is WFP’s largest operation in the world. But in May, a critical shortage of funds forced WFP to take what James Morris, WFP Executive Director, described as “one of the hardest decisions of my life” and cut rations to half in terms of energy content for two million people in Darfur and the east of Sudan. Over 250,000 people in Darfur have been displaced by new fighting since the start of 2006, WFP currently is feeding about 3.5 million people in Sudan, and the number is expected to go up to 6 million by August. Those figures do not include hundreds of thousands of refugees in the neighbouring countries who have also fled and need assistance.“Our donors haven’t been giving us enough money for Sudan,” said Trevor Rowe, North American spokesman for the Rome-based agency. “The result is we’ve had to reduce rations by about 50 per cent, so it’s a dire situation. You’re talking about people who have been victimized in so many ways, villages burned, men killed, women raped. Then, when help arrives, we’re unable to provide even the minimum.” The PSA featuring Mr. Deng speaking to the audience, graphic images of the Sudanese crisis and the WFP assistance, aired multiple times during the finals series and will reach an estimated 66 million worldwide while also being streamed on NBATV and via the Internet.Also airing worldwide during the NBA Finals are other 30 and 60 second PSAs, produced by NBA Entertainment and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, featuring various popular NBA/WNBA players offering the tragic statistics of the impact of the global AIDS crisis on children.

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