UN World Food Programme

Air Drops Underway For Refugees In South Sudan

A plane takes the runway in Gambella, Ethiopia to drop some 32 metric tons of wheat over Upper Nile State in South Sudan, about enough to feed 2,100 people for a month.

Copyright: WFP/Stephanie Savariaud

Emergency air drops have begun over South Sudan to reach refugees in Upper Nile State with urgently needed food. In South Sudan for a three-day visit, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said that air drops over the coming weeks would help to feed more than 100,000 refugees who have fled the fighting north of the border.

JUBA—A series of emergency air drops of food for refugees in South Sudan launched Wednesday as a plane from Ethiopia dropped 32 metric tons of wheat over Upper Nile State in the northwestern part of the country.

“This is the first in a series of air drops that aims to replenish rapidly diminishing food stocks for more than 100,000 people who have fled the fighting north of the border,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin from the South Sudan capital of Juba.

Air Drops In South Sudan

Enough food was dropped Wednesday to feed some 2,100 people for a month in Maban County where a sudden influx of refugees from conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile State brought a sharp rise in food needs just as the rains were making roads impassable.

Alarming malnutrition

Health workers at the camps are reporting alarming levels of malnutrition, particularly among  new arrivals.

“People in camps have told me how they arrived weak and hungry after weeks of trekking and foraging in the forest,” said WFP South Sudan Country Director Chris Nikoi.

“Our assistance has been a lifeline to more than 100,000 refugees in Maban County, but continuing that lifesaving support will require some extraordinary measures given the size of the refugee influx into an area with limited infrastructure,” he said.

Thousands of children under 5 are also receiving special food products tailored to their nutritional needs. These can prevent worsening malnutrition among children who haven’t been eating properly and keep healthy children from becoming malnourished.

More air drops to come

More air drops are planned in South Sudan’s northern Unity State for an estimated 60,000 people in the Yida refugee camps.

Executive Director Cousin underlined, however, that WFP was also looking beyond the immediate needs of South Sudan towards a future when the world’s newest country will be able to provide for itself.

“We’re working together in the quest not only to achieve a food secure nation, but also to help realise their agricultural potential to become the breadbasket of Africa,” said Cousin.