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South Sudan: Reaching the Unreachable

Beneficiaries carry WFP food, unloaded right off the truck, at Yida camp, South Sudan. WFP/Geoff Pinnock

South Sudan: Reaching the Unreachable
 
River barges, speedboats, all-terrain trucks, and aircraft are all ways in which WFP reaches the most remote places in the world’s newest country.  A complex logistical exercise requires the WFP team in South Sudan to pull out all stops to deliver food to 2.5 million people so far in 2012 – and all of our efforts require mobilising the country’s road, river and air networks.

Getting food to around 175,000 Sudanese refugees, based in two northern areas of the country is particularly complex. Refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan States have fled conflict, leaving their homes and crossing the border into two main areas of South Sudan: Yida and Maban County. At Yida camp, located in northwest Unity State, WFP is providing food for around 65,000 refugees. Around 1,300 km east from Juba is the region of Maban, in Upper Nile State -- an area with four separate camps where WFP is assisting approximately 110,000 Sudanese with food.
 
These camps have a few things in common. Not only do they host thousands of refugees who have fled fighting and conflict in their hometowns, but they also pose very complicated logistical challenges.
 
Two Different Camps, Very Similar Challenges
 
Pre-positioning commodities in strategically-situated warehouses throughout the country has never proved so vital.  During the rainy season from April to October, roads become impassable and many areas, including Maban County and Yida, are highly unreachable. This is why during the first half of 2012, WFP pre-positioned around 65,000mt of commodities – providing food assistance to roughly 1.1 million people across the country, who would otherwise be unreachable during the rainy season. However, Yida and Maban County faced particular logistics hurdles in the month of May when a large influx of refugees pushed food assistance needs to new levels.

By this time, the rainy season was well on its way, as road networks had already begun to deteriorate. In Upper Nile State, rivers offered an added advantage for the logistics team. Mobilising large flat barges, they organized food aid via water – up through the eastern Upper Nile State from Juba and Gambella, Ethiopia all the way to a village called Melut. From here, logistics was similar to a game of chess, as trucks were quickly shuffled in to transport vital commodities as soon as roads became passable.
 
In Yida, the only option was land transport. With no possibilities of using the waterways, Yida turned into an unreachable island. Flooded roads made transport to the camp impossible, meaning that air would be only way. An influx of refugees meant that if food did not arrive by September, a pipeline break would have serious impact on the thousands of Sudanese living in Yida camp – leaving a considerable amount without food.
 
Aid by Air

 
“In both Yida and Maban, WFP has had to organize airdrops and airlifts to ensure uninterrupted food distributions to the refugees,” says Peter Schaller, Head of Logistics in South Sudan. “Since August, we have dropped around 5,000mt for both locations.”
 
With this amount, WFP aims to provide enough commodities to last until the road networks re-open again. Last week, the airdrops came to an end, in total bringing nearly 3,800mt for Yida and 1,300mt for Maban County.
 
On the Road Again
 
As the rainy season draws to a close, the logistics team in South Sudan has begun to mobilise local transport capacities once again, ensuring the passage of food assistance to many vulnerable communities throughout the country.
 
Given the border closure with Sudan, where WFP used to contract much of its local transport capacity, locating adequate trucking resources in-country has been challenging, but necessary. These transport capacities and dry roads will prove vital from December to next April, when WFP will begin to pre-position over 140,000mt of food commodities to reach nearly 60% of the country, who will be cut off by rains.
 
The map above, created by WFP and the Logistics Cluster, illustrates some of the road challenges that logisticians face when organizing transport of food in South Sudan. The considerable amounts of red and yellow dotted lines about the map translate into either limited or no access.