Akobo Tergol is a small town in the western part of Ethiopia. Recently its population has grown due to the conflict in South Sudan and an influx of refugees. More than 20,000 asylum seekers have crossed the river which forms the border between the two countries and WFP has been providing life-saving food assistance, in partnership with the national refugee agency ARRA.
Nyawari Buagn Lual arrived last week. During the conflict her husband disappeared and her brother was killed. “We travelled through the bush for two weeks eating wild fruits from trees to keep us alive. The weak ones stayed behind and some even died”, said the 24 year-old as she lined up to receive High Energy Biscuits from WFP distributed by ARRA.
Nyakhor Biel Wie who is seven months pregnant has a similar story. She is already a mother of four and came from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in South Sudan, walking all the way for twenty days with her husband carrying their three children. While her husband and her eldest daughter spend their day in the bush collecting wood for fuel and for the construction of their new home, she keeps herself busy in her new settlement with the daily routine of cooking food for the family.
"Some of my relatives have died"
“The situation is very serious back home and I prefer to stay here as long as I have something to eat,” she says, recollecting gruesome memories. “Some of my relatives have died, while others fled the war -- like my brother who just disappeared and I don’t know whether he is alive or dead.”
As she speaks she grinds some wheat she borrowed from a friend to prepare porridge for dinner for the family. She is hopeful that she will get her own share very soon.
Amid this challenging situation and location, WFP has started distributing food for the 20,000 refugees present in Akobo and is pre-positioning food in the Gambella region to assist more people if needed.
To provide food assistance to refugees who recently arrived from South Sudan, it takes WFP 15 hours to ship the food by boat to reach Akobo Tergol, near the South Sudan border from the point at Matar in Western Ethiopia, where the road stops.
Refugees in Akobo will be relocated to a safer place to receive humanitarian assistance in the next few days. WFP has also provided food for 2,000 south Sudanese refugees who recently arrived in existing camps in the Gambella region. More is planned as people come in, but additional financial resources are necessary in order for all refugees to be assisted in Ethiopia.
Overall, WFP in collaboration with ARRA and UNHCR, is providing food to more than 400,000 refugees of different nationalities including Somalis, Eritreans and and Sudanese in Ethiopia all year long.