On December 15, 2013, heavy fighting broke out in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and quickly spread to the Upper Grand Nile region. Countless lives and livelihoods have been lost, entire villages have been destroyed and communities have been uprooted. Basic social services ceased to function when non-governmental organizations (NGOs) evacuated their staff, and infrastructure was destroyed and supplies looted. Several hundred thousand people have been displaced and the threat of famine hung over much of the country at the start of 2014. Ninety percent of the displaced and in need were living outside civilian protection sites ( PoC), in remote areas that are extremely difficult to access due to a combination of insecurity and logistical constraints, especially during the rainy season.
To provide these populations with vital humanitarian aid and reopen the humanitarian space, in March 2014, the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched an Integrated Rapid Response Mechanism (IRRM). ), designed to assess and respond to rapidly changing needs on the ground to fill critical gaps in humanitarian coverage and meet the needs of those who would otherwise be cut off from available services.
Given the volatility of the situation and the severity of logistical and access constraints, IRRM’s mode of operation is very flexible. IRRM’s missions are mobile teams of technical specialists in sectors such as food security, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health, nutrition, child protection and education that assess and respond to the situation on the ground. The multisectoral response is designed to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, ensuring that situational assessments are made and immediate action taken, while implementing risk mitigation measures such as the deployment of international security and logistics staff.
From the creation of IRRM until the end of 2016, more than 403 missions have been deployed, reaching over 1.4 million people with vital food and nutrition rations, coupled with other essential services. UNICEF and WFP deployed 91 joint missions, reaching 1,489,948 people, including 278,776 children under 5, with multisectoral services including food assistance, nutrition, health, WASH, education and child protection. Over 100,000 metric tonnes of food, nutrition, WASH, sanitation and other commodities have been delivered by WFP Aviation, including WFP Logistics and the Logistics Cluster, in support of UNICEF and WFP IRRM missions; making it one of the largest aerial lift / drop operations in the world.
Three years of conflict have seen the situation in South Sudan continue to deteriorate. While the slow implementation of the Peace Agreement continues, large areas of the Upper Grand Nile and Greater Equatoria remain difficult to reach due to the conflict; In the rainy season, inaccessible roads pose other problems. Food insecurity has reached historic levels and vaccine-preventable diseases are spreading rapidly due to low routine immunization coverage. In response, UNICEF and WFP are returning to the central objective of IRRMs: saving lives. IRRM will continue to focus on reaching otherwise inaccessible populations with urgent and life-saving interventions, prioritizing those who need them most.