Upper Nile State is in the northeast corner of the newly independent South Sudan. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), it contains 110,000 people who have sought refuge in the area after fleeing south from Sudan and the current conflict in the surrounding border areas.
The 2012 rainy season caused conditions for the refugees to deteriorate and increased the incidence of diseases such as malaria and hepatitis E. Access for humanitarian supplies in four refugee camps in Maban County—Gendrassa, Doro, Jammam and Yusif Batil—was hampered severely by the wet conditions, making the region one of the most difficult for relief responders to reach.
UNOPS has been providing logistical support to relief efforts in the region, by ensuring that road and air routes remain open for relief activities, which include the delivery of medical supplies, water, food and other supplies by UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP), as well as Médecins Sans Frontières and a range of other non-governmental organizations. Vital non-food items such as blankets, jerry cans, mosquito nets and plastic sheets are also being delivered.
Frédéric Cussigh, Head of Office for UNHCR in Maban, said: "The main supply road has been already cut twice by the floods. Without UNOPS diligence to fix it, it would have been impossible to deliver the food on time and any delay in the food distribution would have had serious consequences on an already very vulnerable refugee population."
Responding to the crisis
At the request of the UN logistics cluster, the UNOPS Emergency Response Unit (ERU) has been providing ongoing construction services to ensure that airstrips remain open for relief flights and access roads continue to be passable for vehicles carrying essential supplies.
The ERU helps its partners fill infrastructure capacity gaps and get aid where it is needed most, by repairing critical transport routes damaged by conflict, neglect and heavy rains. By reacting quickly to restore roads, bridges and airstrips UNOPS supports a range of vital humanitarian interventions led by aid and development partners in South Sudan.
Upper Nile State
UNOPS has completely rehabilitated the surface at Maban airfield, creating a new, all-weather, 1,400 metre runway, which allows more humanitarian relief flights by larger aircraft capable of carrying more supplies. The resurfacing was carried out in six weeks and used a labour-based approach that provided much needed incomes to the local community.
In addition, UNOPS has completely upgraded the 74-kilometre road between Bunj and Jamman. The new road surface provides relief responders with a continuous supply route linking the major refugee intake sites in Maban County.
These activities were funded by contributions from the USAID Office for US Foreign Disaster Assistance, the European Commission Directorate for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection and the Common Humanitarian Fund for South Sudan, a pooled fund for humanitarian relief which is supported by the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Development Programme.
The Yida refugee camp in neighbouring Unity State has experienced an increase in the number of new arrivals and has some 70,000 vulnerable people in need of assistance. To support WFP's food relief operations for this camp, UNOPS completed an 800-metre landing strip, which has quickly allowed a reduction in the amount of food delivered to Yida via the more expensive airdrop method. The work was completed without the need for heavy machinery.
Samson Mwangi, Chief Air Transport Officer of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service in South Sudan said: "Thanks to the UNOPS team for a great job done in both Yida and Maban despite the challenges. Maban airfield can now accommodate our larger aircraft with over 30 passengers and larger relief cargoes, before the improvements only our four-person planes could land. We look forward to working together in 2013 and maximizing donor funding to further improve humanitarian relief delivery."
UNOPS is in planning discussions with UNHCR as well as other stakeholders in the logistics cluster and donors about expanding access maintenance operations for Yida camp during 2013.
Continuing to support relief activities
The 2013 UN OCHA Consolidated Appeal for South Sudan is requesting $1.16 billion for activities to reduce suffering, provide protection and boost the resilience of the most vulnerable people in the country. As part of this appeal, the UN logistics cluster is requesting more than $60 million for the provision of essential logistical support functions to the humanitarian community. Approximately $10 million is expected to be allocated to UNOPS for road and airfield operations necessary for providing humanitarian access to crisis areas.
UNOPS in focus