JUBA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has commenced air drops of food assistance into Southern Sudan to feed 155,600 people cut off from road access during current rains in areas hit by conflict, high food prices and poor harvests because of drought.
The airdrops, which began last Thursday, will continue for two-and-a-half months and will provide 4,000 metric tons of food to three of Southern Sudan’s 10 states – Jonglei, Upper Nile and Warrap.
“We can’t wait for food prices to drop or the roads to be passable again. We need to save people from hunger. Airdrops are the only way for us to reach them,” said WFP Sudan Country Director Amer Daoudi. They are the first airdrops by WFP into Southern Sudan since 2007.
Southern Sudan covers 650,000 square kilometres yet the region only has 5,500 kilometres of main roads and only 50 km of those are covered in tarmac. Many roads are in bad condition and cannot be used during the April to December rainy season. Increased tribal fighting has also blocked road and river access to some areas.
To carry out the airdrops, WFP has chartered an Ilyushin-76 aircraft, which can carry 36 metric tons of food on each flight. The food is packed at WFP warehouses in El-Obeid and Juba. It will be dropped in 22 different locations across the three states where specially trained teams collect the food from the drop zone and organize distributions.
“We manage to do two rotations per day, one from El Obeid and another one from Juba,” said WFP Logistics Coordinator for Southern Sudan Daniel Nowack. “Each rotation takes two to three hours.”
The airdrops complement airlifts from June to September of 820 metric tons of WFP food which helped to feed some 40,000 people displaced by conflict in Akobo, a county in Jonglei State.
“The need is so immense that we need to use all our resources to feed so many people facing food shortages,” said Daoudi. Airlifts will continue to serve selected areas in Jonglei State.
Airdrops are more expensive than bringing food in by road or river. WFP is appealing for US$44 million to buy and deliver 22,000 metric tons of food to feed 300,000 people facing severe food insecurity in Southern Sudan. Half will receive food by airdrops and the rest by road and barge.
WFP has so far received US$14.5 million – US$6 million from the UN Common Humanitarian Fund, US$6 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and US$2.5 million from the United States Agency for International Development.