South Sudan: WFP Provides Food Assistance Despite Looting, Destruction
Both of WFP’s warehouses in Malakal have been looted. The loss of the agency’s entire food stock in the city has greatly complicated WFP’s response to the crisis. In this photo, WFP Assistant Executive Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva surveys the damage at the main warehouse.
The WFP office was also ransacked, with many computers and other gear stolen. The safe was dragged into the hallway, shot with a gun and then pried open – which clearly took a great deal of effort, but the looters will have been disappointed to find no cash stored inside, only documents.
The once-bustling city of Malakal resembles a ghost town. Since the conflict in South Sudan erupted in mid-December, whole neighborhoods of homes have been burnt or looted.
Malakal’s marketplaces have been almost completely destroyed, with most shops looted or burned. Many people have fled the town, and with the destruction of the marketplaces there is practically nowhere left for the remaining residents to buy food or other supplies.
“It’s terrible, terrible,” said this woman, who had taken shelter at Malakal’s main hospital along with her family. The hospital grounds were at one point so overflowing with people that it was impossible to walk through some areas because of the crowding. But in recent days many people had left the hospital for other sanctuaries.
Some people staying in the hospital had managed to get food, and an impromptu market was set up outside the gates where vendors sold vegetables or meat to the people inside who were lucky enough to have the money to afford food.
Despite the looting of all of WFP’s food stocks in Malakal, the agency’s hardworking team has managed to continue food distributions to the estimated 27,000 people who have sought shelter at the UNMISS peacekeeping base in the city. This woman wasted no time in cooking a meal for her family on distribution day last week.
With no food left in the Malakal warehouse, WFP has had to airlift food from Juba in order to continue providing for the thousands of displaced people sheltering at the UNMISS base.
To speed up the distribution given the large number of people, WFP’s partner World Vision distributes food rations for several families together. The families divide the food fairly between themselves.
Another food distribution has reassured this family that, despite the hardship and fear they have faced, they at least will not go hungry.
Sharing a can of vegetable oil means pouring it into smaller containers for each family. These women take great care not to spill a drop.
Two women divide their sorghum ration beside the coils of razor wire that form part of the protective barrier around the area where civilians are sheltering at the Malakal UNMISS base.
A woman walks back to her family’s shelter carrying her family’s ration of food. WFP distributed a week’s worth of rations to displaced people at the UNMISS base in Malakal, while working to bring more food to the city to replace the looted stocks.
A smiling pair of young boys carry their family’s ration of vegetable oil back to their family’s shelter at the UNMISS base.
Meanwhile, an estimated 45,000 people (or more) from Malakal have fled across the White Nile river in small boats to reach the fishing village of Wau Shilluk, or other nearby communities that have remained largely untouched by violence. Little humanitarian assistance has reached these communities yet.
There is food for sale in the market in Wau Shilluk, but it is extremely expensive. The IDPs, many of whom fled with only the clothes on their backs, say they mostly cannot afford to buy much.
A WFP helicopter arrived at the end of January with high-energy biscuits. This ready-to-eat emergency food provides nutrition to the most vulnerable IDPs while WFP works to bring more food from Juba, since the food stocks across the river in Malakal have all been looted.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have been displaced by conflict since mid-December. The city of Malakal resembles a ghost town, with streets largely empty, houses burned or looted, and markets destroyed. Most of the population have fled to safe havens, like the UNMISS peacekeeping base in town, or the village of Wau Shilluk on the other side of the Nile River. WFP’s warehouses and offices have been looted and damaged, but despite the loss of badly needed food stocks, WFP is still providing food assistance to people in Malakal affected by the crisis, and is working to reach more people in the surrounding areas.