NAIROBI (AlertNet) –Humanitarian agencies are racing to deliver food, shelter and medical supplies to South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei state before the March rains make roads impassable and amid fears of fresh fighting.
Some 120,000 people, the majority of them women and children, need food aid following fighting between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in Jonglei over the last month.
“The pace of the humanitarian response is scaling up, but the number of people registered is rising faster than the rate at which partners can respond,” the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its latest bulletin, blaming insecurity and logistical constraints.
Some 80,000 people in Jonglei have received 15-day food rations, delivered by aeroplane, three helicopters and 28 trucks, the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement on Tuesday.
The remote region is the size of Bangladesh, with few roads providing access to remote villages dotted among swamps.
By March, 90 percent of the locations targeted for food assistance in Jonglei will become inaccessible by road, WFP said.
TENSE AND HUNGRY
In late December, 6,000 armed Lou Nuer tribesmen attacked the main Murle town of Pibor, killing as many as 2,000 people, according to local authorities. This triggered a wave of revenge attacks by the Murle on Lou Nuer villages.
The United Nations described the situation as “tense and fluid,” with “rumours circulating of possible retaliatory attacks between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities” in its latest humanitarian bulletin.
South Sudan is entering its hungry season, when food stocks are exhausted and people are waiting for the August harvest.
WFP. which is already planning to feed 2.7 million people in South Sudan this year, said food shortages and conflict in Sudan could push another 500,000 new refugees over the border to South Sudan in the next couple of months.
More than 1,000 people per day have crossed into South Sudan over the last week, according to WFP, fleeing fighting and drought in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended a decades-long civil war, but fighting has continued on both sides of the poorly drawn border.
The government of Sudan will not allow foreign aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile, despite reports that more than a quarter of a million people could be on the brink of famine there by March.
In South Sudan, ethnic hostilities have worsened with independence.
On Saturday, 74 people were killed in fighting in Warrap State, in central South Sudan.
(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)