WFP in rapid response to Venezuelan flood victims

ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme will launch today a rapid-response emergency operation for victims of the devastating floods in Venezuela, officials of the agency said.
In a move to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable of the flood victims, WFP will start delivering food aid this week to some 20,000 hungry people, most of them women and children, for a period of 10 days.

The $200,000 emergency operation follows an assessment by a WFP team of three experts who travelled in government helicopters to view disaster areas in Venezuela. Massive floods and mudslides over the last week there have killed an estimated 10,000 people and left 6,000 missing and more than 150,000 homeless.

"The floods have badly hit the people living in shantytowns on the outskirts of the cities of Venezuela," said Francisco Roque Castro, WFP Regional Manager for Latin America. "There were hundreds of thousands of them who lived in dilapidated, badly neglected homes. They were already on the edge, and now they have lost everything they owned."

"They need food immediately, which is the reason we are taking this first step so quickly right now," Roque Castro continued. "Once we have this rapid-response operation under way, we can begin looking at whether we need to have a longer-term programme there."

Because people in flood-damaged areas have little access to cooking facilities, WFP will distribute ready-to-eat food in the form of high-protein biscuits, one packet of which supplies an adult's daily caloric requirement.

Meanwhile, WFP staff on the ground in Venezuela will evaluate a longer-term response to the crisis, particularly in view of the increasing reports of significant crop losses in the South American country, Roque Castro said.

WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. Last year, its relief workers fed 75 million people, including most of the world's refugees. Headquartered in Rome, Italy, WFP has food aid operations in 80 countries.

For more information please contact:

Francisco Roque Castro, Regional Manager/WFP Managua. Tel +505-2668758
Heather Hill, Public Information Officer/WFP Rome. Tel +39-06-6513-2253
Abby Spring, Public Information Officer/WFP New York. Tel +1-212-963-8364