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Humanitarian situation deteriorates in South Sudan, UN starts food air drops

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The United Nations warned today of an alarming hunger and humanitarian crisis taking place in South Sudan. There are five million people in need of aid following the December outbreak of fighting between the government and opposition forces.

UN official John Ging said today, "The scale of death and destruction in the world’s newest nation since last December is appalling. Six months ago, the country was on the right path to development. Today, the parties to the conflict are wantonly destroying the very infrastructure which was laying the foundation for the country’s future. I appeal to all those with influence to urgently end the violence.”

In a country where hunger was already a crisis, the situation has now worsened. South Sudan went through a two-decade civil war with Sudan and conflict among rival tribes. Hunger escalated as a result. Now the latest round of violence has continued this trend.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is now airlifting food to reach those in need. WFP plans to reach 250,000 people with these airlifts, which are needed as conflict has made areas hard to reach by road. Overall, WFP is feeding close to 500,000 people impacted by the recent fighting.

WFP Country Director Chris Nikoi says, “Given the level of the conflict, we have known for some time that we would have to move some food by air to some parts of the country, particularly during the rainy season, but we have faced more difficulties than envisioned and now need to deliver more food by air than planned.”

The use of airlifts also means an increased cost for WFP, which is already short on funding. The UN food agency relies entirely on voluntary donations. Aid groups are now focused on emergency response, and are not able to continue helping the country build long-term food security.