18 June 2012 - To better deliver humanitarian aid to refugees from Sudan in Upper Nile State, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) launched an airbridge over the weekend to link Juba and Paloich airports.
“We needed a much swifter delivery system, as the number of refugees in Upper Nile rapidly surpassed our original planning assumptions,” said UNHCR country representative Mireille Girard.
“I would like to extend my deep appreciation to the Government of South Sudan for authorizing the use of Paloich airport for this critical emergency operation,” Ms. Girard said.
An air bridge is the route and means of delivering material from one place to another by airlift.
Ms. Girard said the airbridge had accelerated delivery of critical life-saving aid to refugee settlements. “Whereas we had planned for 75,000 refugees, we are already counting some 105,000, with several thousand more reportedly about to cross the border from Blue Nile state (Sudan).”
Speaking at Juba International Airport, UNHCR Senior Supply Officer in Juba, Farah Omer, said UNHCR had been delivering non-food items, including plastic sheets, blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and materials for borehole drilling operations, since 16 June.
“There will be 28 rotations in all from Juba, delivering non-food items for up to 50,000 refugees,” Mr. Omer said. “In addition, we are launching a second bridge from Nairobi to Paloich to bring 5,000 tents and other items.”
With the arrival of the rainy season, gruelling road conditions have slowed down long-haul ground transport operations considerably.
“Our main challenge now is to maintain the road network to and within the refugee settlements as well as border areas to facilitate relocation of new arrivals to safer locations,” said Mr. Omer. “This undertaking will require substantial investment in heavy equipment.”
In Paloich, UNHCR and camp management agency ACTED put in place a fleet of trucks to immediately transport airlifted goods from the airport to three settlements -- Yusuf Batil, Jammam and Doro.
South Sudan is currently hosting over 150,000 refugees from Sudan.