'We're Scaling Up Where We Can,' Says WFP In South Sudan

WFP has launched a major emergency operation to get food to the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing fighting in the world's newest country. Insecurity means that getting food to the hungry is tricky but still, since fighting erupted, WFP has reached 178,000 people. WFP's Challiss McDonough reports from the South Sudan capital Juba.

JUBA -- Much of the town of Bor has been reduced to rubble in fighting that has ripped apart South Sudan. Its once-bustling streets are largely empty, with most of the residents having fled for their lives. But even in what eyewitnesses describe as a “ghost town,” the World Food Programme (WFP) has still had work to do, and has just finished distributing food to around 9,000 people who have stayed and sought refuge in a United Nations compound.

The story is the same in Bentiu and Malakal, which along with Bor have been the focus of some of the most intense fighting of the conflict in the world’s newest country. In those towns and elsewhere around WFP staff are delivering urgently needed food  assistance to those in need, reaching more people every day under immensely difficult conditions.

WFP has launched a new emergency operation to provide life-saving food assistance throughout the country to the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the fighting [you can donate here]. Since the crisis erupted in mid-December WFP, working with partners, has provided food for 178,000 people. But the numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) is continuing to rise, and latest UN figures estimate that almost half a million have left their homes.

Food to worst hit areas

“We are scaling up our operation wherever we can,” said WFP’s South Sudan Country Director Chris Nikoi. “The security situation makes it difficult to know from one day to the next where we can carry out food distributions but we are managing to operate in some of the worst hit areas --  towns like Bor, Bentiu and Leer, and, of course, in the capital, Juba, where many people have sought safety.”

Looting is a problem, and WFP is concerned that it may have lost some 4,000 metric tons of food from its warehouses -- enough food to feed more than 240,000 people for a month. Staff are working to establish exactly how much has been stolen and what can be recovered.

The 3-month emergency operation will cost around US$58 million. As well as basic food supplies, WFP aims to provide specialized nutritional support for young children and their mothers, who are most vulnerable in this kind of crisis.

WFP is reaching people sheltering in makeshift camps as well as UN compounds, and is working with partners, especially in rural areas, to coordinate the humanitarian response.

WFP is also providing assistance for more than 86,000 refugees from the conflict who have crossed into the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya.