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UN Humanitarian Aid Rushed Into South Sudan Before Rains Come

Food aid is delivered to Yida camp in South Sudan.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNCHR) reports it is rushing to pre-position relief supplies for tens of thousands of refugees in South Sudan's Unity and Upper Nile states before the rainy season begins and deliveries become impossible.

U.N. refugee spokesman Dan McNorton says time is running out for this humanitarian operation.

"In terms of the cut-off point, in the next couple of weeks the window that we have in order to make those deliveries, and because in coming weeks those roads that we need to use will become impassable," McNorton said.

McNorton says the operation is in good shape, and relief supplies for more than 190,000 refugees from Sudan will be in place before the rains and floods arrive.

Currently, more than 73,000 refugees are living in Yida camp in Unity state. But the UNHCR expects more refugees to arrive in the coming weeks and is pre-positioning aid for more than 110,000 people.

McNorton says relief items for Yida are either already in warehouses or moving in truck convoys that are expected to arrive within the next week. Items include plastic sheets, blankets, sleeping mats and family tents.

"In Upper Nile, where there are over 117,00 refugees living in five camps, relief items for over 120,000 people will be placed ahead of the anticipated rains and floods. As well as using truck convoys, UNHCR is also using boats, which are able to operate along the Nile River, which does remain navigable throughout the rainy season," McNorton said.

With the ground operation to deliver humanitarian supplies nearly complete,
McNorton says the UNHCR will not have to mount costly airlifts to provide the refugees with the supplies they need.

A month before South Sudan gained its independence from the north in July 2011, fighting broke out between Sudan’s central government and rebels in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states.

More than 190,000 refugees have since fled from the two states into South Sudan. Fighting continues in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, and the United Nations reports that refugees continue to cross the border.