UNHCR, WFP reassure Maban refugees over food shortage

News Stories, 2 June 2014

© UNHCR/P.Rulashe
A displaced mother with her hungry baby in South Sudan's Maban county.

MABAN COUNTY, South Sudan, June 2 (UNHCR) Nadia Turimbil does not mince words: "In Blue Nile, my family and I fled from the Antonov. In Maban, the Antonov has become hunger."

The comparison is stark equating fighter planes that forced her to flee her village in Sudan with the recent food shortages in South Sudan's Maban county, where she is an active and vocal member of the women's committee in Gendrassa refugee camp.

She was telling her story during a joint visit last week by UNHCR Representative for South Sudan Cosmas Chanda, and the World Food Programme's (WFP) country director, Michael Sackett. They had come to Maban in the north-east to engage with refugees and humanitarian agencies on the challenges in transporting food from the capital Juba and other locations amid insecurity in South Sudan.

Nadia pointed to a nearby group of children swatting flying ants, drawn out of the ground by recent rains. "That," she said to her rapt audience, "is what children are collecting to help supplement the little food we have available."

The current insecurity began last December and has affected tens of thousands of civilians, including some 126,000 Sudanese refugees in remote Maban. They have since February received insufficient quantities of food and this is affecting their health

The refugees received a seven-day ration in March, food for a 10-day period in April and a 20-day ration in May. During Wednesday's meeting with refugee leaders from the four Maban camps Doro, Kaya, Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa WFP assured them that it would try its utmost to provide a full 30-day food ration in June.

"Although talks to resolve the problems the country faces are under way in Ethiopia, the logistical challenges of transporting food and other humanitarian supplies in an insecure environment have severely affected the timely delivery of food and other essential items," said Chanda. "Nonetheless, WFP continues to look into ways to ensure food delivery to Maban."

Sackett said WFP was adopting a multi-pronged approach to getting food to Maban. This included the use of cargo aircraft to transport food from WFP's stockpiles in Ethiopia and from Juba. With more peaceful conditions prevailing, it had proved possible to make truck deliveries of sorghum from Renk and Melut County.

WFP is currently loading its first Nile River barge convoy in Juba which is able to deliver large volumes of food at lower cost. Finally, WFP is at an advanced stage of discussions with the government of Sudan to restore cross-border movement of humanitarian cargoes.

At the same time, UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are exploring the possibility of refugees growing their own food. Through Maban's county commissioner, refugees in Kaya camp have acquired a little over five square kilometres of land to begin farming.

UNHCR is also making progress in finalizing with the host community and local authorities the designation of land for agricultural activities in Gendrassa, Doro and Yusuf Batil camps, where the neighbouring host community has generously given refugees more than eight square kilometres of nearby land.

Through humanitarian agencies, UNHCR has acquired more than 45 tonnes of seeds which will be given to refugees during the food distribution exercise scheduled for next week. "This is to ensure that refugees plant the seeds and not eat them to make up for the food shortage," said Chanda.

As part of its annual provision of non-food supplies before seasonal rains intensify, UNHCR will also distribute fleece blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans, buckets, mosquito nets, plastic sheets and soap right after food distribution, so that refugees will not be tempted to sell the items in order to purchase food.

UNHCR's Chanda is hopeful that with WFP's assurances for June's food distribution, refugees will use the seeds and non-food items as intended. "A lot is riding on the provision of food," he said. "In as much as we appreciate and support WFP in its efforts to turn this situation around, it was very important to meet with refugees jointly, and for them to explain to us, first hand, what their concerns are because we will continue working on this issue until the 30-day ration is restored."

These words have given Nadia some relief: "All we can do now is pray and hope for peace in this country and an end to the suffering and hardship everyone is going through."

By Pumla Rulashe in Maban county, South Sudan

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

South Sudan Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Donate now and help to provide emergency aid to tens of thousands of people fleeing South Sudan to escape violence.

Donate to this crisis

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

South Sudan: The Long Trip Home

When the peace treaty that ended 21 years of civil war between north and south Sudan was signed in 2005, some 223,000 Sudanese refugees were living in Uganda – the largest group of Sudanese displaced to a neighbouring country.

Despite South Sudan's lack of basic infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and roads, many Sudanese were eager to go home. In May 2006, the UN refugee agency's Uganda office launched an assisted repatriation programme for Sudanese refugees. The returnees were given a repatriation package, including blankets, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, mosquito nets, water buckets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap, seeds and tools, before being transported from the transit centres to their home villages. As of mid-2008, some 60,000 Sudanese living in Uganda had been helped back home.

As of the beginning of May 2008, some 275,000 Sudanese refugees had returned to South Sudan from surrounding countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. Some 125,000 returned with UNHCR assistance.

Posted on 16 July 2008

South Sudan: The Long Trip Home

South Sudan: Adut's strugglePlay video

South Sudan: Adut's struggle

Thousands in war-torn South Sudan have lost their homes and livelihoods. When seventeen year old Adut lost her parents, she also lost her childhood by taking on the role of mom and dad for her young siblings. But, despite the everyday struggle, she is finding new skills and new hope in exile.
South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's ChildrenPlay video

South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's Children

Years of violence and bloodshed in South Sudan robbed Abuk of her seven children. When fighting returned last year, the old lady fled anew with her grandchildren, hampered by deteriorating eyesight.
South Sudan: No Home To Return ToPlay video

South Sudan: No Home To Return To

Philip and his family fled from their home in the South Sudan town of Bor last December and found shelter in the capital, Juba. Recently they decided to return home, despite the risks. It took three arduous days to get back, but then they got there they found that their home had been destroyed.