NAIROBI - As South Sudan reels from conflict, famine and food insecurity, neighboring Sudan, in collaboration with the World Food Program and the government of South Sudan, opened a second humanitarian corridor to help deliver food and nutrition support. The first convoy of 27 trucks carrying about 1,200 tons of cereal went through earlier this month.
“This is a transport corridor that has recently been opened up between El Obeid in Sudan and Bentiu in South Sudan that we are hoping to use to move some 10,000 metric tons of food, until the roads become impassable once the rainy season starts in June or July,” said Challiss McDonough, senior regional spokeswoman at the World Food Program. “That would allow us to continue to pre-position enough food in Bentiu that will help us provide food and nutrition support to about 220,000 people.”
This is the first corridor into Unity State, but since mid-2014, the World Food Program has been using another corridor from White Nile State in Sudan to Upper Nile State in South Sudan, with supplies going by road or barge. McDonough says seven convoys have come through this corridor this year, bringing enough food to benefit about 200,000 people.
She adds that security concerns mean food cannot be taken by road to the famine-stricken areas of Unity State.
“So Leer and Mayendit are places that we could not store food for any length of time, so we are using this sort of rapid response model,” said McDonough. “We’ve got emergency teams that go in and do food distributions. We supply them by airdrop, because it’s just sort of extreme levels of insecurity, conflict, and the lack of road infrastructure.”
The vice president of programs and government relations for U.S.-based charity Samaritan’s Purse, Ken Isaacs, says bringing food from Sudan is a good idea, but he notes a discrepancy, since Khartoum restricts aid to its own South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
“So I wish that the government of Sudan would offer the same humanitarian access that they have now offered benevolently to South Sudan,” said Isaacs. “I wish that they would offer it to the two areas. In other words, that food could be brought up from South Sudan.”
Attempts to reach Sudan’s foreign minister and government spokesman for response were unsuccessful.
Save the Children’s South Sudan program director of policy and advocacy, Joseph Akech, says the corridor will help his organization.
“And if there is a humanitarian corridor which comes with other services in terms of food to those communities and it will enhance our programming,” said Akech. “That will reduce the burden we have to deal with at the moment.”
Robin Waudo, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said her organization welcomes “all efforts by the authorities to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people affected by the prevailing situation on South Sudan given the immense needs and challenges.”
The Norwegian, British and U.S. governments released a joint statement welcoming Sudan’s decision, and urging all armed groups “to allow full and safe humanitarian access to reach communities in need, and to ensure that food and other commodities are not diverted from the intended beneficiaries.”
More than 365,000 South Sudanese refugees live in Sudan, among the more than 1.7 million South Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers who have fled to neighboring countries.
The U.N. has reiterated that in addition to the 100,000 people facing starvation in South Sudan, a further one million people are on the brink of famine.