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WFP To Increase Assistance To Southern Sudan

 Copyright: WFP/Tania Morello

WFP will dispatch more food to southern Sudan where conflict, poor rainfall and high food prices have combined to push the number of people needing assistance up to 1.3 million. Airdrops will be needed to reach remote areas.

KHARTOUM -- WFP plans to increase by 25 percent its food assistance distributed to Southern Sudan this year, to a total of 118,000 metric tons, because the number of people facing severe food shortages has now risen to 1.3 million.

Conflict, poor rainfall and high food prices were identified as the ‘key shocks’ behind the worsening food security situation.

“We need to act now to assist the increasing number of people facing serious hunger in southern Sudan,” says WFP Sudan Representative Kenro Oshidari, who attended a donors’ meeting in Juba on August 15, organized by the Government of Southern Sudan to appeal for assistance.

Critical need for food

The decision to increase food assistance follows a recently completed mid-year review of the 2008/2009 Annual Needs and Livelihood Assessment, carried out by the Government of Southern Sudan with the support of WFP and other UN agencies.

Half of WFP’s food assistance will go to beneficiaries in Akobo, an area in Jonglei State that has been affected by recent inter-tribal clashes, which have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. The review indicates that 40 per cent of the people in Akobo are food insecure.

“In places like Akobo, which are cut off from commercial supplies of food, there is a desperate need for us to bring in food,” says Oshidari.

Hunger season prolonged

WFP has been airlifting food into Akobo since an attack in mid-June attack on boats carrying its food assistance down the Sobat River. With the food security situation deteriorating in many remote and inaccessible areas, WFP is also considering air drops of food commodities in other parts of southern Sudan.

Usually, the August sorghum crop signals the end of the hunger season in southern Sudan but poor rainfall reduced the harvest this year in many areas. Consequently, the hunger season will be prolonged from August until October or even November, when the main harvest is expected.

With poor harvests, food prices – particularly for the staple food, sorghum – have increased. Few people can afford to buy what is available in the markets, leaving them and their families in need of assistance.