The Long Journey to South Sudan

Moving nearly 30,000 metric tonnes of food from the US to the remote regions of South Sudan is no easy task. To preposition it before the April rainy season is requiring not only intense logistics planning, but also hard work to overcome unforeseen challenges. As a Logistics Officer based in Ethiopia, Mike explains the context, detailing the small amount of time WFP has to bring in food to assist nearly 120,000 refugees in this area of the country.


"For around nine months of the year, the routes into South Sudan’s Upper Nile State (UNS) are inaccessible to trucks due to muddy, flooded routes. There are no roads in this region, just tracks through the bush around villages.

The current dry season (mid-February to April) is when we have our busiest overland operations. Our target is to pre-position 30,000MT in 11 locations in Upper Nile State, which poses many challenges in itself with the specific nature of the operating environment in South Sudan, such as inaccessible roads and insecurity.  It is essential for WFP to be able to contract local transporters that remain able and willing to send their trucks from Ethiopia into the area. 

Because a large majority of this food intended for South Sudan has been generously donated by the United States, through the United States International Development Agency (USAID), it must make its journey thousands of miles across the globe – from US ports to the East African port of Djibouti. From there, it travels approximately 1,000kms by truck to Gambella, a key Ethiopian transit location for cargo on its way to north-eastern South Sudan. Gambella’s unique position near the border of South Sudan, with access to several river ports and an airport, makes it a strategic location.

At present WFP is moving an average of 1,000 – 1,200MT of food per day through this route, but as the rainy season progresses and water levels rise in the rivers, it’s possible to move additional tonnage by boats and barges to destinations into South Sudan with access from the rivers, ensuring the right amount of food is present in Upper Nile State."

A short selection of photos was taken by Koang, a WFP Logistics Assistant, who came to Matar river port in Ethiopia to oversee the loading of the boats before being shipped to Melut, South Sudan.

offloading food from WFPoffloading wfp food

In this photo on the right, 500MT of USAID sorghum arrived by road to Matar river port in Ethiopia. From here, it was off-loaded onto river boats to be sent on to South Sudan. Porters transfer the sacks of food down an earth embankment from the trucks to the boats.

BAGS OF FOOD FROM WFP USAwfp food lined up on shipsEach boat has a capacity of just over 30MT, or 600 bags weighing 50kg each. Final checks are taking place before setting off in convoy to the Baro river into South Sudan. The journey to Melut will take them up to seven days. In all, 16 boats were loaded in the space of 2 days.
woman carrying bag of wfp food donated by the USAsmall children eating food together

To the left, a woman picks up her rations at Maban camp in South Sudan -- this one in particular is sorghum donated by USAID. To the left, children in Maban enjoy cooked sorghum prepared by their mother.


*A special thanks goes to Mike and Koanga, part of the WFP Logistics team in Ethiopia, for helping to put together this great photo diary! First four photos credited to WFP/Koang Jashua. Last two + info credited to WFP/Ahnna Gudmunds.