Early last year, aid workers in South Sudan reached a significant milestone. One million people — 20 percent of whom were children under age 5 — had received lifesaving assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and other partners through 82 rapid response missions.
So what exactly is a rapid response mission?
WFP and UNICEF designed the simple yet innovative Integrated Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in 2014 to deliver urgently needed supplies to families in hard-to-reach areas by air and river. This is especially crucial in places where violence and insecurity make access to those in need a constant challenge.
Here’s how it works:
- Teams of technical specialists fly into remote areas by helicopter and set up a temporary camp, where they can remain for up to two weeks.
- They make logistical arrangements — like conducting head counts, registering the people who need supplies and hiring locals to serve as porters to help carry and distribute food.
- The teams then radio back to head offices to relay the information and determine the amount of food and supplies needed.
- They coordinate with transport teams to get the right amount of food delivered.
In the long term, RRM teams work to establish or reopen humanitarian access to remote communities.
“The rapid response missions have been standing between people and starvation in several parts of the country,” says Joyce Luma, the WFP Representative and Country Director in South Sudan. “This is a lifeline that must be maintained where access remains a challenge.”