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South Sudan: as rains set in, UN agency boosts aid operations to reach remote areas

5 June 2014 – As the rainy season begins in South Sudan, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has scaled up its emergency response operations with large-scale airdrops to provide remote communities with livelihood kits that will allow them to plant crops, fish waterways and protect livestock from fatal diseases.

The agency announced that despite problems of access and insecurity in parts of the country, it has extended its emergency response for an additional three months to reach conflict-affected farmers, fishers and herders with the tools they need.

Along with targeting conflict-affected communities with large-scale distributions by truck, FAO successfully flew 21 tonnes of crop seeds to Pibor in Jonglei state in partnership with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Subsequently, FAO undertook an emergency airdrop with the support of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) logistics capacity, dropping packages from a plane to a partner on the ground who then distributed the seed to farmers. Although used only as a last resort due to their high cost, airdrops guarantee that farmers in the most inaccessible areas receive support, enabling them to grow their own food and making the operation cost-efficient in the long run.

Three tonnes of crop seeds were successfully air-dropped in Mayendit county in Unity State, and will enable 250 households to produce over 200 tonnes of crops including maize, sorghum, cowpea and sesame.

"FAO is doing everything it can to assist the highly vulnerable people of South Sudan, including innovations in the delivery of seeds through airdrops," said Sue Lautze, the agency's Head of Office in South Sudan and the UN's Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.

"Portability and flexibility are our watchwords right now. FAO is grateful to WFP and the donors who facilitated these initial airdrops. We will continue to integrate this logistic option as part of the FAO-WFP-UNICEF rapid response partnership."

Since the crisis began, more than 110,000 emergency livelihood kits have been distributed, including crop seeds, fishing kits, vegetable seeds and livestock health kits.

With $42 million in funding received to date, FAO is supporting 1.3 million people. However, more funding is urgently needed to reach out to vulnerable rural communities in the worst-hit areas while building resilience throughout the country and to prevent a further worsening of food insecurity, the agency says.

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