Emergency distribution points set up as crisis escalates
March 28, 2014 (JUBA) – An urgent operation to deliver food, vaccines, nutrition supplements and other vital relief supplies to one of the most isolated areas of conflict-affected South Sudan has begun today, as part of a joint response by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
Using helicopters and air drops, UNICEF and WFP have today begun assisting 30,000 people in urgent need in Akobo, in Jonglei State, near the Ethiopian border. The two agencies have set up emergency distribution points for food, health, protection, education and sanitation.
Akobo is the first location the two agencies are reaching under a new joint strategy. Fourteen such missions are planned over the next month, seeking to support as many as 250,000 people in remote, conflict-affected communities in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. Other agencies are expected to join the partnership.
“Children and families in South Sudan are now facing unprecedented suffering – with worrying signs of malnutrition and disease outbreaks,” said UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch. “With the rainy season looming we have to seize every opportunity to rapidly deploy teams and life-saving supplies to the hardest to reach. This is how we will avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Earlier this month WFP started a series of urgently needed airdrops of food assistance to remote areas of South Sudan that have been unreachable because of insecurity and other obstacles.
“The conflict in South Sudan is pushing millions of people further into hunger and complicating efforts to provide relief, and we are enormously concerned that things could get worse,” said WFP Country Director Chris Nikoi. “We have to act quickly to avert an even worse crisis as the rainy season approaches. The mobile response teams are a swift and flexible approach we have been using to reach as many people as we can with assistance in a tremendously challenging environment.”
Backed up by airdrops and airlifts (where supplies are flown in and unloaded on the ground) WFP mobile response teams have provided food assistance to displaced and conflict-affected people in five locations over the past several weeks. Now with the joint emergency teams, WFP will provide vital food and specialized nutrition products for children; whilst UNICEF will distribute water and sanitation kits to families as well as ready-to-use therapeutic food for malnourished children. The UN Children’s Fund will also immunize children against polio and measles, distribute recreational activities, set up emergency education, and register and support unaccompanied children.
After nearly 100 days since conflict erupted, limited humanitarian access and rains threaten aid efforts and have made children more vulnerable than ever to disease and malnutrition. The violence in South Sudan has massively disrupted livelihoods as families and livestock have been displaced, households looted and markets destroyed, with regular aid interrupted, with more than 3.7 million people at risk of severe food insecurity as well as disease outbreaks and acute malnutrition. About 700,000 people are displaced within the country, including a staggering 379,000 children.
Since the crisis began in mid-December, WFP has provided lifesaving food and nutrition assistance to nearly 500,000 people affected by the conflict and UNICEF has reached approximately 250,000 people with support that includes water, sanitation, vaccines, education and child protection assistance in South Sudan.