NAIROBI, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The UN World Food Program (WFP) said Friday it plans to seize window of opportunity created by the signing of the ceasefire agreements to deliver food assistance to areas that have been difficult to reach.
WFP Country Director Chris Nikoi said the UN agency has so far assisted some 178,000 people displaced as a result of the South Sudan crisis, which erupted in mid-December last year.
"We hope that the signing of an agreement in Addis Ababa will bring fighting to a stop and allow WFP and other humanitarian agencies to provide urgently needed relief to the people affected by this conflict," Nikoi said in a statement.
"But it is important to note that humanitarian needs will continue, long after the fighting stops," said Nikoi.
The WFP and its partners have distributed food in many locations as more distributions are planned for the town of Nimule, near the Ugandan border, in the coming week.
The WFP has launched a 57.8 million U.S. dollars emergency operation to respond to urgent food needs of displaced and conflicted-affected people in South Sudan.
Nikoi said donor contributions are urgently required for this operation and to provide food for the tens of thousands of people who have fled across South Sudan's borders into the neighboring countries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.
Nikoi however decried humanitarian access and looting of food stocks which she said remained a major concern, citing warehouses in Malakal which have been affected.
"This is greatly complicating efforts to assist people affected by the conflict in Malakal, the people seeking shelter in the UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in the town and in other parts of Upper Nile State," she said.
The statement came after representatives of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and former deputy president Riek Machar signed the agreement on cessation of hostilities late Thursday, following three-weeks of talks mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
The ceasefire seeks to ease a political dispute in the world's youngest nation between President Kiir and his former deputy, Machar, who was removed from office in July of 2013 and later accused of attempting a coup.
The tensions escalated on Dec. 15 last year into a full-scale conflict between forces loyal to either side, driving 500,000 people from their homes and leaving twice as many in dire need of aid.
The WFP said the fighting has also hampered delivery of food urgently needed to replenish stocks that will enable this support to continue through the year.
Traditionally, the WFP takes advantage of the dry season to preposition food in the camps in advance of the rainy season when roads become impassable.
The WFP said it is working speedily to move more food into Malakal, possibly through airlifts, in order to support the tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting.
"WFP remains concerned that the conflict has done so much damage that many people will continue to need food assistance for months or longer as they attempt to rebuild their lives," Nikoi said.
Many homes, food markets and small businesses have been destroyed, and many people have lost their annual harvest, leaving them with nothing at a time of year when they struggle to feed their families.