FAO’s first airdrop in partnership with WFP will allow 250 households to produce over 200 tons of crops including maize, sorghum, cowpea and sesame

FAO scaling up operations in South Sudan

05/06/2014

FAO is scaling up its emergency response operations in South Sudan despite problems of access and insecurity in parts of the country. The Organization has extended its emergency response for an additional three months to reach conflict-affected farmers, fishers and herders with vital emergency livelihood kits that will enable them to plant crops, fish waterways and protect livestock from fatal diseases. 

Since the crisis began, more than 110 000 emergency livelihood kits have been distributed, including crop seeds, fishing kits, vegetable seeds and livestock health kits. 

With $42 million of funding received to date, FAO is supporting 1.3 million people. However, more funding is urgently needed to reach out to vulnerable rural communities in the worst-hit areas while building resilience throughout the country and prevent a further worsening of food insecurity.

FAO reaching remote communities by all means possible

As well as targeting conflict-affected communities with large-scale distributions by truck, FAO successfully flew 21 tonnes of crop seeds to Pibor in Jonglei state in partnership with the United Nations Missions in Sudan (UNMISS) . 

Subsequently, FAO undertook an emergency airdrop with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) logistics capacity, dropping packages from a plane to a partner on the ground who then distributed the seed to farmers. Although used only as a last resort due to their high cost, airdrops guarantee that farmers in the most inaccessible areas receive support, enabling them to grow their own food and making the operation cost-efficient in the long run. 

Three tonnes of crop seeds were successfully air-dropped in Mayendit county, Unity State, and will enable 250 households to produce over 200 tonnes of crops including maize, sorghum, cowpea and sesame.

“FAO is doing everything it can to assist the highly vulnerable people of South Sudan, including innovations in the delivery of seeds through airdrops,” said Sue Lautze, FAO’s Head of Office in South Sudan and the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in the country. “Portability and flexibility are our watchwords right now. FAO is grateful to WFP and the donors who facilitated these initial airdrops. We will continue to integrate this logistic option as part of the FAO-WFP-UNICEF rapid response partnership.” 

The complex logistical operation has been possible thanks to collaboration with humanitarian partners such as WFP, the Logistics Cluster, UNMISS and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. 

Access constraints hamper humanitarian assistance

“The humanitarian response has been facing serious logistical challenges in reaching affected communities,” Lautze said. “Humanitarian access and insecurity remain the biggest threats to food security in the country – if we cannot reach those in most need there is a real risk of famine later in 2014 and into 2015.”

FAO’s emergency response programme is actively addressing the rapidly deteriorating food security situation highlighted by a new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report.

Due to the impacts of conflict and displacement, more than 3.5 million people are currently suffering from crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity, meaning they are unable to meet basic survival needs even with extreme coping mechanisms such as selling livestock and other productive assets. Unless these communities benefit from humanitarian assistance, their food security will deteriorate even further.

Twin-track approach to counteract  food insecurity

“FAO’s work is not limited to humanitarian operations - we have a twin-track approach where we will continue with our development projects whilst responding to the most critical humanitarian needs,” Lautze explained.

“That said, our focus in coming months will be on the most food insecure counties in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states where there is a real risk of famine in localized areas later this year unless we can get farmers planting now. This deterioration coincides with the area’s lean season, when food insecurity is already at its peak.”

FAO is appealing for $108 million as part of the UN’s revised Crisis Response Plan and has received $42 million to date. Additional funding could bring the total number of people supported in 2014 to 2.7 million.