WFP has welcomed the Uzbek government's decision to open the Friendship Bridge which links Uzbekistan and northern Afghanistan across the Amu Darya river.
The bridge, which has been closed for four years, represents a vital supply route and will greatly speed-up deliveries into Afghanistan's so-called "Hunger Belt" zones, where more than three million people are dependent on food aid.
WFP will use both trains and trucks to carry food aid across the bridge. Today, four rail wagons, each loaded with 60 tonnes of wheat, will cross into the north.
Prior to the opening of the bridge, WFP had been limited to using slow-moving barges that transported food aid from Termez river port across the Amu Darya to Hairaton in north Afghanistan.
WFP will continue to use its barge operation to shift food aid until the end of the month.
The expected return of international staff to Mazar-I-Shariff this week will also enhance WFP's ability to assess the situation and deliver assistance.
AFGHAN HUNGER BELT
As security improves in Mazar-I-Shariff and other northern areas, WFP and its non-governmental organisation partners (NGOs) should find it easier to access the "Hunger Belt".
Day after day, the Agency's food aid is reaching more and more of the over 350,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) it aims to assist in the northern provinces.
Over the weekend, WFP delivered 437 metric tonnes of food aid to some 8,500 families or 51,000 people in Kunduz Province.
This is the first time since early September that food aid has reached Kunduz, where people have not only been affected by the fighting, but also more than three years of drought that have reduced food stocks in the province to desperate levels.
KABUL EMERGENCY FOOD DISTRIBUTION
On December 8, some 30,000 bags of wheat were distributed to designated families in Kabul. This week, some 1.3 million people in the Afghan capital will receive a one-month food ration.
Prior to the distribution, WFP conducted a house-to-house survey, the largest of its kind ever made in Kabul, issuing food coupons to residents. In an unprecedented move, the Agency hired 2,400 women to carry out the survey, as well as 1,212 men.
The only major area of concern to WFP in terms of security is the Kandahar area, where the Agency aims to feed 238,000 people.
Drivers used for WFP humanitarian convoys into Afghanistan have not been able to use the road from Quetta, Pakistan to Kandahar for nearly four weeks.
Once security stabilises, hopefully soon, WFP will resume its activities in the area.
WFP food deliveries: update
Northern "Hunger Belt": over the past few days, WFP has sent over 2,000 metric tonnes to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) distributing the Agency's food aid to 250,000 people in the northern provinces
The NGOs included the International Rescue Committee (United States), ACTED (France) and Peacewind (Japan)
Central Highlands: today WFP completed its delivery of 30,000 tonnes of food aid to Hazarajat in the Central Highlands; the food will be distributed by the Agency's partner NGOs
In the mountainous north east, WFP is still racing against time to deliver food aid before winter snow bocks access routes
The Agency's three-man Avalanche Control Unit is expected to reach the zone this week. Its members will assess the safety of mountain passes for food aid convoys and, where necessary, trigger controlled avalanches