Help is on the Way for Refugees from Sudan

The boxes being loaded into the plane at Juba International Airport include RUFT – a therapeutic food stuff, similar to Plumpy’Nut, used in the treatment of severe malnutrition. The freight, flown to Renk in Upper Nile State, by Pilot Andy MacDonald has been organised by Citizen’s Call.

A few weeks ago, a team from Citizen’s Call, (full name for the Emergency Evacuation of South Sudanese or CCEESS) were on the ground in Renk when a child died in front of them from dehydration and hunger. Exhausted and traumatised by her escape from Khartoum, the desperate young mother, arrived in Renk only to face a new kind of heartbreak as she cradles her only child.

It was hard to forget that moment for Akoch Manheim from Citizen’s Call, who returned to Juba to rally a response to the brutal conflict unfolding in Sudan’s Capital Khartoum, since 15 April.

A few weeks, later, this is the second load of cargo Citizen’s Call has entrusted to MAF. The first, carried on a flight last week, was comprised mostly of medical supplies. ‘This freight is made up of medicine and therapeutic food for distribution in the camps around Renk,’ explains the Citizen’s Call Chairperson who is working hard to make sure that the refugee needs are met.

On the ground, Pilot Andy Mac Donald noted that help is beginning to arrive. ‘The airspace over Renk was busy with three aircraft taking off in the 10-15 minutes before I landed. On the ground the massive UN MI 26 Helicopter, which can carry 20 tons of freight took up the whole of the apron. The activity at the airstrip and the presence of UN peacekeepers shows that the response is starting to pick up.’

Andy continues to reflect on what he saw. ‘Single crew operations keep the pilots pretty focused on the ground. Afterwards, when you have time to stop and reflect on the reality facing the people, you realise how much the boxes of food and medicine are needed. They will benefit people like the couple of dozen refugees camping in the bushes towards the end of the runway looking for a way to leave this nightmare behind.’

‘The boxes of cargo, I unloaded were an equal split of medicine and therapeutic food, that will meet the needs of people in some of the camps in Renk Town where refugees living alongside the host community. The sachets will be given to children. Each sachet, made from peanuts, milk and whey protein, provides exactly 500 calories of nutrition to a child over 6 months old suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. One box containing around 150 sachets, will treat one child for the 6-8 weeks it takes for them to recover. It may not seem like much, but 10 boxes will help ten vulnerable children survive a conflict they are too young to understand. That’s about the number of passengers we can evacuate on a flight.’

With his cargo unloaded, Andy was keen to get back in the air for a return flight. ‘The wind at the airstrip indicated there would be storms to the south. The return flight meant two hours of active navigation to avoid storm activity on the way back. That a three-hour flight is the safest and easiest option, speaks volumes about the size of the challenges facing the people in Renk,’ he reflects at the end of a long tiring day.

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