With the the rainy season in full force in South Sudan, most of the roads in the country have become impassable. Where it is still possible to move, trucks transporting cargo including WFP food have to sometimes drive through deep waterlogged ditches. Sections of the Rumbek-Mvolo-Lado road (seen here) are three meters deep. This is a key route to deliver supplies from Juba, the country's capital, to most parts of Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states.
Transporters are reluctant to deploy trucks due to the road conditions. They are not only concerned about the safety of their drivers trapped in isolated locations but that the trucks could be stuck for weeks or months which could impact their businesses. "On some routes we become road maintenance workers to avoid being stuck or getting overturned. My assistant and I have to dig after every few kilometres to ensure that the trucks can move, these are impossible conditions," said a driver for a commercial transporter contracted to WFP.
The impact of such delays are immense for WFP. Recently, bad conditions on a stretch of the Juba-Rumbek route blocked 250 trucks including 70 transporting WFP food supplies and jet fuel for aircrafts. As a result, there was a shortage of fuel which forced the grounding of helicopters delivering critical food supplies to hard-to-reach locations where thousands of people are in need
If the roads that are still passable deteriorate further without repair the only alternative would be air deliveries but these are about seven times more expensive than road transport and move less cargo. "The trucks we use transport about 40-45 metric tons per trip but a Mi8 helicopter (pictured) can only deliver about 2-4 metric tons depending on the distance it has to fly," said Peter Schaller Head of Logistics at WFP South Sudan. "On average it takes between 10 to 20 helicopter flight rotations for one truck delivery".
River transport is a cheaper alternative to air operations. A convoy of barges carrying urgently needed food assistance on the River Nile has arrived in Malakal and Melut, Upper Nile State. Lucky Mukami, officer-in-charge of the WFP Malakal office, stands on the barge.
However, transporting nearly 1,200 metric tons on the White Nile is not an easy task. The barges were delayed for weeks after they hit a sandbank and developed mechanical problems that required spare parts to be imported. They finally reached their locations and WFP has completed the loading of an additional 1,157 metric tons of commodities for a second barge convoy to Upper Nile State.
Despite the challenges including bad road and weather conditions and insecurity WFP has dispatched nearly 125,000 metric tons of food throughout South Sudan since the start of the year. The agency provided assistance to 1.4 million people in the country in July alone.
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