16 June, 2015 - Humanitarian agencies in South Sudan have undertaken an emergency airlift operation to deliver survival kits, containing lifesaving supplies, to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in hard-to-reach areas of Unity State. Recent violence has affected an estimated 750,000 people in Greater Upper Nile and forced approximately 150,000 people to flee their homes, many to extremely remote areas.

The humanitarian community has developed portable, lifesaving survival kits, which include mosquito nets, short-maturity vegetable seeds, fishing supplies, water carrying containers, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, nutritional biscuits for children and kitchen sets with cups, spoons, pots and plates. Each survival kit weighs only nine kilos and is designed to provide short-term and life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable families fleeing violence in locations that remain inaccessible. The first distribution of survival kits was delivered by helicopter, targeting an estimated 28,000 IDPs with approximately 4,500 kits.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are closely coordinating the fluid and challenging operational aspects of the emergency response, with support from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Development of the kits was a multi-agency effort, with support from FAO, IOM, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Program, the International Rescue Committee, the South Sudan cluster system and others.

“Taking into consideration the persistent access constraints in South Sudan, the survival kits could represent a new, innovative modality for reaching extremely vulnerable people in remote areas with life-saving assistance,” said Laura Jones, IOM Shelter and Non-Food Items Cluster Coordinator.

Humanitarian agencies are carefully collecting and analysing information from partners on the ground and working with the International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps, who distribute the kits, to ensure that the delivery of aid does not further expose beneficiaries to protection issues and security risks. 

“It is a top priority for FAO to reach these displaced communities, who in most cases have missed the planting season this year. This operation will provide people with a short-term capacity to survive, but we are concerned and aware of risks in the delivery of this aid,” remarked Karim Bah, FAO Deputy Representative. “We are taking all measures and precautions to ensure our beneficiaries and partners are absolutely not put at greater risk.”

For many displaced and food-insecure communities, the survival kits may be the only humanitarian aid they receive during the next crucial weeks of the lean season.

Unicef Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch, said: “The majority of those who have fled recent violence are children who will not survive without basic necessities like food and clean water. This short-term response is crucial while we work on restoring services devastated by conflict.”

The priority of all agencies working on the response is unrestricted access to displaced communities and the redeployment of full teams on the ground.

More than 2.1 million people have been displaced by the crisis in South Sudan since December 2013. The humanitarian community has reached 1.88 million people with humanitarian assistance since January 2015 but requires USD 1 billion to continue lifesaving operations to match the depth of needs across the country.

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Notes for editors:

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