The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's briefing in Islamabad by the United Nations offices for Pakistan and Afghanistan (excluding question and answer session).
** Jordan Dey, Spokesperson for WFP
During this holiday season, with Eid festivities over and the Christmas holiday upon us - WFP, our partner NGOs, and our shippers and transporters are not resting. Ships are on the high seas, trucks are moving, and our wheat bagging operations are going 24 hours a day. WFP has an avalanche control team in the Northeast and a road clearing crew in the Southwest. Women-run, low-cost bakeries are opening for the poor in Kabul, while even the southern trucking corridor - which has been too dangerous to drive for the past five weeks - has partially reopened again.
Ships on the High Seas
Regarding food movements, there are currently four ships on the high seas loaded with wheat bound for the people of Afghanistan.
Two ships, the M/V Sag River and the Monte Pelmo, are from the United States and carry enough wheat to feed seven million hungry Afghans for two months. The ships, carrying 115,000 tons of wheat, left the United States last week from ports along the Colombia River in Oregon and Washington State. They are currently making the 10,000 miles, month-long journey to Pakistan, where they will offload in Port Qasim - the largest industrial port in southern Pakistan (near Karachi). From the Port Qasim, the wheat will be offloaded and trucked into Afghanistan.
Two other ships are near arrival in southern Pakistan. The M/V Khairpur, which left from Thailand, is expected to arrive on 27 December in Port Qasim (Karachi). The ship is carrying a 3,000 tons rice donation from Thailand - which will help feed 360,000 Afghans for one month. The M/V Austac Nova, also from the United States, will be arriving on 27 December. It is carrying enough wheat to feed six million Afghans for a month.
There are also two ships currently unloading food supplies in ports in both Pakistan and Iran.
I am happy to report today that the Quetta to Herat corridor has partially re-opened for our truckers, moving much needed food from Pakistan into southwest Afghanistan. The road, which takes about a week to drive, has not been used by WFP for the past five weeks due to extreme insecurity in the region. WFP dispatched nine trucks last week and expect them to arrive this week in Herat. I'll keep you posted.
Finally, WFP strongly welcomes the commitment by Afghanistan's new interim administration to focus on security in Afghanistan. Improved security conditions in Afghanistan will greatly assist WFP and its NGO partners in moving and distributing much needed food to the hungry poor.