More than 240,000 Southern Sudanese may not receive critical food rations next month after the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) suspended operations in two areas of the soon-to-be independent country because of direct attacks amid rising violence in the region.
WFP has suspended operations in seven of 11 counties in the state of Jonglei after a national staff member, Santino Pigga Alex Wani, was ambushed and killed in a roadside attack last Friday, the agency reported.
Food distribution has also been put on hold across all of Lakes state after a truck contracted to deliver 16 tons of aid for WFP’s school feeding programme was commandeered by members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on 19 April.
Next month’s food rations for more than 135,000 people in Jonglei and 105,000 in Lakes – including thousands of children – are now in jeopardy, according to Amor Almagro, a WFP spokesperson.
Ms. Almagro called on the Government of Southern Sudan to provide assurances that the agency’s staff and assets will be protected as they carry out their work in Southern Sudan, which becomes a formally independent country in early July.
“This comes at a critical time, with rising violence and tensions and clashes across the south, and the livelihoods of many people jeopardized as a result,” she said.
WFP is working with other UN humanitarian agencies and UN security officials to assess the situation in Jonglei and Lakes and determine when it might be safe to resume operations.
Ms. Almagro urged local authorities to carry out a full investigation of last week’s killing and said the perpetrators of the crime should be punished.
“Humanitarian workers must be allowed to carry out their duties,” she stressed.
UN officials have voiced increasing concern about the violence inside Southern Sudan ahead of its formal separation from the rest of Sudan on 9 July. Hundreds of people have been killed across several states after clashes involving Government forces and renegade militia groups.