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In South Sudan, Conflict Is Affecting Access to Food for Sudanese Refugees

Active fighting may not have reached Maban County in South Sudan's Upper Nile State but the conflict that has engulfed the world's youngest nation is already having an impact.

ORO, South Sudan– On a sunny day at Doro refugee camp in South Sudan’s Maban County, Falcime Idriss joins hundreds of other refugees queuing up for food distribution by WFP and its partners.  It’s not long before the 22-year-old collects her family’s ration of sorghum, pulses, oil and salt.

Idriss has a big smile on her face as she carries the supplies back to her family but she knows the food she has collected will only last one week.

Continued insecurity and fighting along the supply routes is preventing WFP from conducting regular delivery of critical food supplies by road to Sudanese refugees in Maban County. As a result, the agency and its partners have been forced to distribute reduced rations  to refugees .

“The fighting (in South Sudan) has not reached us but it affects our area,” Idriss said. “The roads are blocked, people can’t come in with food and it is affecting many people especially the most vulnerable such as children and women who are breast-feeding,” she added.

Three years ago, Idriss’ family fled fighting and subsequent hunger in Blue Nile State of neighbouring Sudan and sought refuge in South Sudan.

“Those who are fighting are killing innocent people,” she said. “I know what fighting does and I feel for those who are in places like Malakal where we hear many people have died or fled their homes. I am appealing to them to stop fighting and solve their differences peacefully. Look at how their fighting is affecting even people here in Maban.”

Most of WFP’s food supplies to Maban County and several parts of Upper Nile State have to come through neighbouring Ethiopia. With the main route from Gambella in Ethiopia often impassable during the rainy season, WFP usually pre-positions stocks between February and April. This year, there were serious restrictions on cross-border movement due to the conflict and when they were lifted fighting broke out on the routes leading to Maban.

WFP has resorted to using a combination of airlifts and airdrops to bring additional food stocks to the camps in Maban County and maintain food distributions.  Aircraft loaded with life-saving supplies fly in from Asosa and Gambella in neighbouring Ethiopia as well as from Juba in South Sudan.

“WFP is committed to providing food assistance to refugees in Maban County and the air operations have enabled us to provide this critica l  assistance,” said Mike Sackett, the WFP South Sudan Country Director. “However, what would be best is to use land or river transport which is not only cheaper but permits us to move bigger volumes of food.  It is absolutely critical to stop the fighting and other obstacles that prevent these lifesaving aid deliveries.” he added.

In addition to air operations, plans are underway for the movement of barges along the Nile from Juba to transport food commodities to Upper Nile State. WFP is also purchasing food stocks locally in areas of high agricultural production to supplement supplies for the more than 125,000 refugees and vulnerable host communities in Maban County.