The United Nations World Food Programme has delivered life-saving supplies by boat to tends of thousands of refugees in South Sudan's remote Greater Upper Nile region for the first time since civil war broke out in the country in 2013, WFP said on Tuesday.
"Millions of people don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” says Adnan Khan, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan. “They urgently need humanitarian assistance. Without it, they face serious challenges," Khan said.
The river convoy, composed of one barge and 11 smaller vessels, transported some 752 metric tonnes of food and nutrition supplies up the Sobat river from Renk to Ulang county - a week-long journey that cost a fraction of previous costly air drops, said WFP.
The humanitarian supplies shipped to the area included sorghum, pulses, vegetable oil and a nutritious porridge blend – enough to sustain 40,000 people for one month, WFP said.
To deliver the crucial food aid, WFP had to negotiate access and obtain security guarantees from local authorities to allow the river convoy's safe passage, the UN agency stated.
More than half South Sudan population – some 6.1 million people – are facing severe food shortages, according to latest findings of a new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report which focuses on food insecurity for the rest of this year and the first quarter of 2019.
In response to the country's worsening humanitarian situation, WFP is aiming to provide emergency supplies for five million people, using all means of transportation - road, air and river - the agency said.
Airdrops are used to supply hard-to-access communities but they are a last resort as they cost on average six times as much as road or river transport, WFP stated.
WFP said it plans to deliver 6,200 metric tonnes of food for some 130,000 people in seven remote locations in South Sudan's Ulang, Luakpiny and Nyirol counties over the next 12 months which were previously supplied by airdrops.