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WFP Airdrops Food in South Sudan

Source: WFP

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 18 2014 (IPS) - A lack of access and a desperate need to deliver food to starving people in remote areas of South Sudan has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to initiate food airdrops.

“In conflict situations, aid agencies just have less control over what they’re trying to accomplish, so insecurity has really changed the way that we operate,” Steve Taravella, senior spokesperson for WFP, told IPS. “This is not a routine way that we deliver food. We do this when we really cant get food in any other way.”

Tuesday’s drop delivered enough cereals to feed 8,000 people for 15 days in the town of Ganyiel in Unity state and came in the wake of a recent trial drop to Maban County in Upper Nile state. Currently, nine drops are planned for Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states.

“We are concerned about reports of alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children arriving at refugee camps in neighbouring countries, particularly Ethiopia,” stated Valerie Guarnieri, WFP Regional Director for East and Central Africa. “Given the level of the conflict, we have known for some time that we would have to move some food by air to some parts of the country, particularly during the rainy season, but we have faced more difficulties than envisioned and now need to deliver more food by air than planned.”

WFP faces numerous obstacles in their efforts to deliver food, beyond their normal methods by road and river.

“[Airlifts are] difficult, they’re complicated, they’re expensive, and in many ways just impractical. They require a team of people on the ground to secure a drop zone and people have to be in place to collect the food and distribute it when it falls,” stated Taravella.

In conflict areas, many dangers exist both for the people involved and for the aid supplies. Roadblocks can limit movement, warehouses can be raided and trucks can be commandeered.

“In South Sudan insecurity is an obstacle…especially to food delivery,” Taravella continued. “Conditions just aren’t safe either for our staff…who are trying to deliver aid, or for the people who need help…Sometimes people don’t feel safe coming out of hiding in daylight, because they’re afraid.”

“The challenges to routine delivery are so great, it just forces us to find other ways to reach people who need food.”

The present conflict in South Sudan began in December 2013 as a result of a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and a faction of the nation’s military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, headed by Riek Machar.

Since the conflict began, WFP has provided lifesaving assistance to approximately 765,000 people in South Sudan. Additionally, WFP plans to scale up their efforts in order to support 2.5 million people in the months to come.

South Sudan contains over 90,000 internally displaced people, according to United Nations Security Council member and Luxembourg ambassador, Sylvie Lucas.

WFP is also working with the U.N. Refugee Agency to support the more than 210,000 refugees in countries bordering South Sudan.

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