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BENTIU - 31 Aug 2023

Bentiu IDPs concerned about stoppage of food distribution

IDPs walk to their camp after receiving food aid from WFP. (WFP photo)
IDPs walk to their camp after receiving food aid from WFP. (WFP photo)

The leaders of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) community at the Bentiu camp in Unity State have voiced their trepidation following the suspension of food aid by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). 

The decision to suspend the food aid to camp residents for four months has created unease among the affected population.

Chap Wuon Biet, the chairperson of the high committee at the Bentiu IDP camp, told Radio Tamazuj Wednesday that some of the affected population reacted with shock and anger because they were not given ample notice about the stoppage of food assistance.

“The reason why residents at the camp acted aggressively is because WFP did not give notification ahead of time before suspending food distribution,” he said. “If there is no food for the next four months, there will be malnutrition and starvation.”

Wuon warned that WFP’s ceasing distribution of food aid in the Bentiu camp puts the lives of approximately 120,000 individuals at risk as they have no alternative sources of nourishment. 

Humanitarian officials in Unity State attributed the suspension of food aid distribution to a shortfall in WFP’s funding and that the food given to the displaced people earlier was meant to last seven months. 

However, in reaction to this, Wuon said the camp’s population was planning a massive demonstration. 

“We are already facing hunger,” he declared. “We have organized a huge community demonstration to compel the humanitarian agencies to provide us with assistance.”

A women’s leader in the camp, Mary Stephen, confirmed the planned demonstration which she said they will use to demand resumption of food aid assistance. 

“As women representatives, we are ready to demonstrate against WFP’s decision,” she stated, saying there had been no food since the beginning of June.

Tensions have been running high in the camp since Monday when WFP announced the suspension of food aid. 

Tom Kai Bandeng, another camp resident, described the prevailing unease thus: “The big problem right now is that there is no movement outside to the former Protection of Civilians (PoC) site because it has been flooded for the last two years.”

The suspension of food distribution which is impacting about 120,000 inhabitants of the Bentiu IDP camp is driving up food prices in the area.

Bandeng said 1kg of sorghum shot from SSP 2,500 to 7,500 after the suspension of food assistance last week.”

Meanwhile, Yam Ruot, the coordinator of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) at the camp, acknowledged the anxiety the stoppage of food assistance has caused among the affected communities. He however admitted that it was because WFP has a funding gap

“The problem with WFP is not about the suspension of food distribution, but that they were supposed to give us notification before their last food distribution that was to last for seven months,” he said.

The RRC official said Unity State Governor Dr. Joseph Manytuil Wejang had been briefed about the situation and the associated challenges. 

“The prices of food commodities went up to the point a kilo of sorghum now costs SSP 8,500 from and 2,500,” Ruot said.