JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — The People’s Republic of China has donated $7 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to assist the agency’s efforts in South Sudan. The funds will be used to bolster food and nutrition aid in the country, where approximately 5 million people are unable to meet their food needs.

The WFP said the contribution will allow it to purchase rice, pulses and other commodities for use in school meals and general food rations.

“China will stand with the people of South Sudan at this time of food crisis,” said H.E. He Xiangdong, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan. “This new contribution is part of our commitment to support the efforts by the government of South Sudan and humanitarian agencies to provide adequate food to South Sudanese facing hunger.”

During 2018 the WFP said it supported about 5 million crisis-affected and vulnerable people in South Sudan with 259,000 tonnes of food and $24.5 million in cash transfers. But the agency said food assistance needs have continued to increase with 5.2 million expected to be severely food insecure between January and March 2019. Additionally, the WFP said it could see its available resources further stretched with the possible return of South Sudanese refugees from neighboring countries.

“The Chinese contribution came at a critical time when WFP is appealing for more resources to respond to increasing needs,” said Adnan Khan, country director for the WFP. “In particular, the support to our school meals activity is an invaluable investment in the next generation and the country’s overall development.”