Since gaining independence, South Sudan has gone from relative peace to political infighting and violence requiring the assistance of the United Nations and aid organizations. There have been major logistical hurdles to overcome in positioning personnel and supplies.

Supporting UN operations

Japan was one of the countries that the United Nations called on to help with a peacekeeping mission after South Sudan won independence in 2011. Japan activated its Self-Defense Force (JSDF), dispatching troops, an engineering unit and a local support coordination unit. Their mission was to help build badly needed infrastructure such as roads, bridges and drainage.

South Sudan is a landlocked country that’s 1.7 times the size of Japan. The JSDF set up its headquarters in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, to coordinate and consult with the UN, the South Sudan government and other organizations. To get up and running quickly, the headquarters needed basic supplies to equip offices and living quarters for its contingent of more than 200 JSDF troops – paper, office furniture, garbage bags, disposable tableware and other necessities. The goods were unavailable in Juba.

Agility was able to locate and transport the supplies quickly. The Agility team in neighboring Uganda worked closely with GCC Services and Tristar from Agility’s Infrastructure group to carry out the mission, locating suppliers in the Ugandan capital Kampala that had what the JSDF needed. After purchasing the supplies, Agility prepared customs documentation, loaded the shipment onto a truck headed for Juba, a 320-mile journey.

The cargo hit a bottleneck at the border, which was closed because of a truckers’ strike. When the strike ended two days later and the borders reopened, Agility’s close relationship with customs brokers in both countries helped ensure its truck crossed promptly into South Sudan. Agility delivered the goods to JSDF in Juba ahead of schedule four days later, much to the delight of officials from Japan’s Ministry of Defense, who did not expect the shipment so soon.

Overcoming obstacles to deliver fuel

The political infighting that erupted between South Sudanese leaders in late 2013 has since uprooted 1.5 million people and put more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease. In addition to armed conflict, relief groups and their logistics providers have to deal with the country’s treacherous terrain, severe weather and malarial swamps. In the dry season, they race to pre-position life-saving and livelihood supplies, and carry out repairs to roads, airstrips and other facilities needed for aid operations.

Fuel specialist Agility TriStar transports fuel to peacekeepers and relief workers in camps in South Sudan, a job that requires tenacity and creativity. The work is difficult and dangerous but necessary to the efforts to bring stability and deliver humanitarian relief.

Moving fuel by road over long distances is impractical. Only a small percentage of roads in South Sudan are paved. Most secondary roads are unpaved and in disrepair. During rainy season, many roads are impassable. Another option, air freight, is limited by high operating costs and the need for time-consuming aircraft modifications and installation of the fuel tanks.

TriStar has become master of the rivers, engineering its supply chain around barge movements to transport the fuels. TriStar builds and commissions fuel barges to suit the different storage and movement needs. It uses two customized 600 cubic meter barges and a pusher tug to move large volumes of fuel up the Nile River from the South Sudan capital of Juba to depots in the north. To distribute fuel from the Malakal depot to more isolated areas, TriStar uses smaller, self-propelled deck barges.

Medical aid, hope in a humanitarian crisis

Agility’s humanitarian partner, the International Medical Corps (IMC), has worked to address outbreaks of hepatitis C, cholera and malaria among those displaced by the conflict in South Sudan.

While IMC provides medical services to about half a million refugees in South Sudan, Agility has deployed resourceful logisticians to maintain the humanitarian supply chain so relief goods can flow into the camps.

The United Nations has declared South Sudan a level-3 emergency – the worst level of humanitarian crisis. Aid is delivered in extremely challenging circumstances. Hostilities and attacks against humanitarian workers constrain access to those in need. The situation is worsened by torrential rain and floods that render roads unusable.

The team of Agility volunteers planned transport air charters, helped manage the IMC ground fleet, and set up warehousing facilities to store and distribute relief supplies. They also readily shared their knowledge in supply chain management with the IMC logistics team.

In addition to delivering relief goods, Agility saved the IMC more than $100,000 through supply chain planning.

Sean Casey, South Sudan Country Director for the IMC, said the organization was grateful to Agility “for bringing its unparalleled expertise in global logistics to International Medical Corps’ emergency response in South Sudan. Due to Agility’s critical support, our team was able to more efficiently and effectively deliver humanitarian relief in an extremely challenging environment, ultimately saving lives.”

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 following a referendum that passed with more than 98% of the vote. The country has six international borders, with: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo, and Central African Republic.