Climate change and persistent conflict have hit South Sudanese communities in the greater Jonglei region hard.
Humanitarian needs are rising, and it is now more necessary than ever to ensure safe delivery of aid to the most vulnerable.
However, escalating violence and insecurity along land routes across the country have led to numerous attacks on humanitarian actors.
To help provide relief to internally displaced people in Bor and Pibor, peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), recently provided a protective presence for a 50-truck convoy from the World Food Programme (WFP).
On 18 April, peacekeepers from Ethiopia and India began escorting WFP trucks which provided much-needed supplies to displaced communities in Pibor, Yuai, Lankien, and Akobo.
It was a challenging but rewarding endeavor, reveals Major Ravi Kumar, the Commanding Officer for Indian troops deployed in the Bor-Pibor axis.
“The rainy season has begun in South Sudan, leaving roads extremely boggy. We were moving vehicles that were carrying 40 – 50 tons of supplies and had to navigate this difficult terrain with extreme caution. One small mistake and we would lose precious, life-saving supplies,” he recalls.
Road conditions weren’t the only tricky factor – security was a risk too with reports of more than seven attacks on aid convoys along the route recently, leading WFP to temporarily suspend aid delivery across Jonglei, one of South Sudan’s most food-insecure states.
“Blue Helmets accompanying the convoy had to be always alert. Our job was twofold: To help humanitarian partners reach earmarked locations safely while making sure none of the aid packages were lost or damaged in transit,” adds Major Kumar.
Despite the hardships, he says, every peacekeeper on the convoy knew the importance of the convoy and the criticality of the humanitarian assistance carried in every truck.
“The people of Pibor needed the UN family and we were determined to deliver,” he stated with a smile.
Their efforts were rewarded by much appreciation from Uror County Commissioner, Moses Machot Jaak.
“We are immensely grateful to WFP and UNMISS. They have saved many lives with their efforts. Thanks to the food aid received, my people will avoid starving to death.”
Recently, authorities in Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area have formed two committees to investigate attacks on humanitarian convoys and theft of humanitarian assistance.
“Attacking and looting humanitarian convoys is unacceptable. By setting up these investigative committees, we hope to find workable strategies, such as more patrols by local law enforcement agencies along major supply routes, to stop such violence. Importantly, we want to bring perpetrators of such acts to justice,” said Michael Mading Akueth, Chair of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in Jonglei.
UNMISS is mandated to coordinate with humanitarian actors, creating secure conditions for the delivery of assistance to all those in need across South Sudan. In April 2023, the UN Peacekeeping mission has provided force protection to more than 150 trucks carrying essential aid supplies across Greater Jonglei.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).