By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 10, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) - The United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) has launched a cross-border operation to supply food to tens of thousands of South Sudanese affected by the conflict which began in December last year.
The cross-border food operation will dispatch 30,000 metric tones of life-saving food from Ethiopia into South Sudanese states by air drops.
The operation will primarily reach out hundreds of thousands internally displaced South Sudanese who are in urgent need of food assistance.
WFP officials in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune that the cross-border operation aims to assist these hungry South Sudanese located in remote and inaccessible parts of the country and thereby to ease the burden of massive influx of refugees to neighbouring Ethiopia.
The aid agency said it has already began dispatching some 4,000 metric tones of Sorghum in to South Sudan’s Jonglei and Upper Nile states to feed up to 60,000 internally displaced people.
WFP has begun delivering thousands of metric tones of food including grains, pulses and vegetable oil to the IDP’s and Sudanese refugees sheltered at four camps in Maban district of Unity state.
According to WFP officials, the major cross-border operation to South Sudan was launched after the two warring factions - the South Sudanese army and rebels who split from the military - gave assurances that WFP humanitarian personnel and cargo would be protected.
On a daily bases, thousands of South Sudanese cross into Ethiopia to escape the conflict which erupted in mid-December between government forces and forces loyal to former vice president and current rebel leader, Riek Machar.
An average of 1,500 South Sudanese, mostly children and women including pregnant mothers arrive at Ethiopia’s Pagak border entry point in the bordering Gambela region.
Most of the refugees are exhausted, starving and highly malnourished.
Some of the arrivals claimed to have walked for over two weeks to reach the Ethiopian border.
At the main border crossing, the WFP supplies high energy biscuits to new arrivals while children aged under 5, pregnant and nursing mothers are provided with special nutrient packed food supplements.
WFP officials said the aid agency only has enough resources to last until August and have called upon donors for urgent contribution.
Nearly 100,000 South Sudanese have sought refugees in Ethiopia since the conflict erupted in December last year.