One of the aircraft, which are leased by WFP, departed from Quetta today with 45 tons of wheat aboard. The second aircraft is scheduled to start deliveries tomorrow.
"The Ilyushins will enable us to get food immediately into our warehouses in Turkmenabad so that we can send it by truck into the less accessible regions of Afghanistan," explained Daly Belgasmi, WFP's regional manager for Central Asia.
"North Afghanistan is the hunger belt of the country, where WFP is seeking to help about three million people stay alive until the harvest next year. WFP stocks in Turkmenistan were running dangerously low and this is why we decided as an emergency measure to move some food there from our stocks in Quetta until scheduled deliveries by road from Iran arrive in Turkmenistan," he added.
The WFP needs to airlift 7,000 tons of wheat from Quetta to Turkmenabad to cover the gap in supplies to north Afghanistan but due to limited resources only 2000 tons could be lifted in the coming few days. The United States has announced that it will provide USD two million to WFP to cover the cost of the operation.
Turkmenabad is an important logistical hub in the WFP regional emergency operation because it straddles the border with Uzbekistan and sits on routes leading both east (to the Afghan city of Mazar-I-Sharif) and west (to Herat).
WFP, which first began working in Afghanistan in 1964, is now carrying out a $230-million operation to feed up to 7.5 million Afghans, six million of them inside the country. The food aid agency, the largest in the world, is undertaking the airlift as another means of meeting its target of shifting 52,000 metric tons a month into Afghanistan.
WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2000, WFP fed more than 83 million people in 83 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
For more information please contact WFP Public Information officers:
Heather Hill, Quetta
Tel. 0300-8567421 or 03204506790
Khaled Mansour, Islamabad
Tel. 03008500989 or 051-2271265
Lindsey Davies, Islamabad
Michael Huggins, Peshawar