Juba/Nairobi (ICRC): After weeks of fighting that prevented humanitarian aid from reaching people around Leer, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been granted safe access to deliver food and shelter supplies to more than 8,000 families.
"Our aim is to help thousands of families in and around Leer, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes – often more than once – and are living without food, shelter, and even the most basic services and are at-risk of diseases that can be fatal if left untreated," said Beatrice Oechsli, deputy head of delegation in Juba.
The first distribution took place yesterday in Loth and the aim is to reach 3,300 families over the coming days. The team on the ground found people living in the open, sheltered only by trees, and surviving off wild fruits and some fish – which are scarce due to low water levels in rivers – for more than two months.
"Some people managed to bring some things with them [when they fled], but they are in very bad shape, almost useless," said one community member. "We have been moving in and out of this area for five years because of fighting. Every time we leave, our things get looted or destroyed."
In addition to Loth, aid distributions are planned in the coming weeks in Leer town, Padeah, and Dablual. This week's delivery of assistance was the first time the ICRC has been able to provide relief in the area since March, when teams delivered seeds and farming tools that were lost or looted when clashes broke out.
The ICRC has been evacuating by air people wounded in the fighting in the Leer region after obtaining safe access from the parties to the conflict. However, the volatile security situation since fighting erupted in the beginning of April prevented relief items from being distributed.
"While a vital lifeline today, these distributions will not be enough to sustain families through the rainy season," said Oechsli. "Continuous humanitarian assistance will be critical to ensure communities do not slide deeper into hunger and their needs are met."
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