As South Sudan moves towards independence and southerners look to build up business and commerce, traffic on the region’s roads is likely to get heavier. That makes the road rehabilitation work being carried out by WFP's logistics team more crucial than ever.
JUBA -- South Sudan covers an area about the same size as France. But while France has a million kilometres of roads, Southern Sudan has 4,000 km. It’s not much for an area in urgent need of humanitarian aid and economic development.
Many of the roads that South Sudan does have were rehabilitated in recent years by WFP logistics teams. But they take a terrific pounding from the thousands of heavy trucks that use them every week. Torrential rains that frequently wash over the tarmac and gravel don't help.
With road repair and maintenance essential for the area’s future, WFP is working with the government of South Sudan, to maintain nine critical trunk roads and to repair key bridges. Without these crucial assets, transporting commercial and humanitarian goods by road would be almost impossible.
Jobs created by road work have helped people like Anyar Akec Majuc provide for their families. Here are 10 more reasons it makes sense to fix roads in South Sudan.
A huge difference
"I want to see maintenance on this road continue," said Frica Ohia Tofic, 66, a retired labourer who used to work on a road maintenance crew trained by WFP to look after the Torit-Kapoeta road. "Before this road existed it used to take eight hours to do this trip. Now it takes two."
WFP will continue working on the key road links until mid-2011, using the local maintenance crews that it has trained under a seven-year-old road repair and mine clearance programme. Then, responsibility for the network of contractors and crews that have been assembled will pass to the government of South Sudan.
WFP's logistics team will continue to provide assistance to the government, but its own efforts will be directed at constructing feeder roads connecting to the main roads. These smaller roads are a means of stimulating the huge agricultural potential in South Sudan, providing better access to food production areas and markets.
But this is just the latest phase in a road rehabilitation programme that WFP has been leading since 2004. It was set up not only to enable WFP to shift its own food aid, but also to create a road network that would support economic development.
Since 2004, WFP has repaired 2,600 km of roads, linked eight out of the ten key cities and established corridors not only to the north, but also to Uganda and Kenya. It has also removed 230,000 mines left by the civil war.
"The impact has been amazing. When we started you could not access Juba, or other towns such as Bor and Torit. Today they are thriving hubs with commercial businesses and new activities," says WFP lead engineer Steve Crosskey.
Among the many benefits brought by the road rehabilitation project is the employment and training it has meant for Sudanese nationals living in communities along the key trunk roads.
Many of them have been employed by the new companies set up under WFP’s guidance to run the road-building and maintenance.
“I have managed to build a house in Bor town for my family with what I’ve earned,” says Anyar Akec Majuc, who rose to become a community development officer in Jonglei State through his work on the local roads. “My children are in school and our standard of living has gone up.”
Reporting by WFP team in Juba