South Sudan’s Unity region, getting food can be an immense challenge for women. Besides walking long distances, the danger of sexual violence lurks in the bushes that throng the roads they must walk to get to food distribution points, as seen in the recent allegations that shocked the world. Here is a look at what happens at food distribution points, as women continue to receivemuch needed food rations.
Hundreds of women, young and old, gather and line up at a food distribution center, opposite Bentiu town’s main mosque.
They are from Nhialdiu, and have walked almost 30 kilometers to get to this food distribution center.
Many of the women are tired, dusty, hungry and thirsty. Some are sick – but must line up to get much-needed food assistance being distributed by Wilte Hunger Wilfe (World Without Hunger) which works in partnership with the World Food Programme, to distribute food to communities in Rubkona.
Each of these women is tightly holding to their food ration card. These cards must be verified before they receive their food entitlement. Failure of verification means no food will be received irrespective of the distance walked.
Seated on her sack of sorghum, one of the women, an expectant mother, is getting ready to set off to return to Nhialdiu. She has received her food ration, and has to make it back home before dark. It’s already 4pm.
Receiving the food in Nhialdiu would have been the best option, but according to Wilte Hunger Wilfe, the last food distribution in the area that would help tide the community for three months, happened in July 2017.
Since then, the access road has been dodged by insecurity, and the difficult road condition has not allowed tracks and vehicles to ply, hence affecting public transportation to the area, and forcing many to walk.
For the time being, as the communities continue to walk the road, humanitarian agencies project that they will start sending food directly to the community in Nhialdiu starting January. Indian and British Engineering teams working with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan are currently supporting in clearing and levelling the road, to help trucks access the area.
For now, the local government is being asked to provide security along several roads to ensure safe passage for those seeking food, as communities living here have not had a chance to cultivate their lands. Thousands remain displaced, and with the onset of the dry season, communities have to wait for the next rainy season to grow some crop. Separately, despite the signing of a peace agreement in September, skirmishes continue to plague parts of the region-UNMISS