As Philip Butterworth-Hayes writes, sometimes an airlift of food supplies just can't come fast enough - a situation many in South Sudan are currently finding themselves in.
The use of aircraft to drop supplies to communities caught up in war, or to evacuate foreign nationals, has over the years become a fairly accurate measure of the severity of a crisis. Airlifting people and supplies is an act of last resort, when all other attempts at relief have failed. According to the World Food Programme, the agency has delivered by air 7,600 tonnes of food and 1,189 tonnes of life-saving supplies to 21 countries in the past six months. Over 90% of relief supplies was transported to emergency areas such as Central African Republic (22%), South Sudan (53%) and Syria (16%).
Seen through the lens of a television camera it is a dramatic, expensive and dangerous exercise.
Yet in South Sudan it is an almost daily occurrence. The World Food Programme is organizing almost daily air drops of food to communities cut off by fighting and now facing the real threat of famine. The WFP is having to use helicopters to bring in supplies of oil and children’s food stuffs to many families living in remote areas of the country; nearly one million children under five years of age in South Sudan will require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014, according to UNICEF and WFP.
It is unlikely that these airlift operations will appear on many television screens around the world – which is a pity because if they did they might help to graphically illustrate the severity of the unfolding crisis in the country and some of the ways we might be able to help. Find out more by visiting the World Food Programme page on the crisis, where you can also find links to ways you can help.