BRUSSELS: The European Commission has donated a further €14 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver aid to 1.7 million people in South Sudan.
European Union funding now totals €208.5 million including, €83.5 million from the Commission, as seven million Sudanese face famine following the outbreak of fighting in Juba last December that has spread to several states in the world's youngest nation.
Currently more than 1.1 million people have been internally displaced and over 400,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
"By signing these contracts with the WFP, our biggest partner in food aid, we will save the lives of many South Sudanese people, " said Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
With many areas of South Sudan cut off from road access because of the fighting and the rainy season, the WFP is using aircraft and barges to deliver aid. A four-barge convoy carrying 1,200 tonnes of cereals is currently heading for the towns of Malakal and Melut in Upper Nile State. In Malakal the food will be distributed to people in areas protected by the UN while in Melut it will be given to Sudanese refugees who have sought refuge in Maban County.
Earlier this year a WFP barge convoy was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades as it was delivering food, diesel and jet fuel to Malakal. Four people were reported injured.
The WFP says the rising number of conflicts has meant a "fifty-fold" increase in the use of airfreight in the first six months of 2014. From January to June, WFP Aviation delivered 7,600 tonnes of food and 1,189 tonnes of relief supplies to humanitarian organizations in 21 countries - 56 times more than the same period last year.
"Dealing with simultaneous emergencies in three countries – the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria – meant calling on our deep expertise in tough places and WFP's ability to scale up swiftly to deliver life-saving supplies to people in desperate need," said Cesar Arroyo, WFP Aviation head. "Thankfully, our donors have supported this effort."
Between March and June WFP Aviation flew 236 airdrops to reach 300,000 people despite what it says is "a shortage of sufficient air assets and drastic cost variations on the charter market during emergencies, as well as bureaucratic hurdles and insufficient cargo-handling infrastructure and airports in many countries".