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100 Days After Tsunami, UN Back In 'Emergency Mode

100 Days After Tsunami, UN Back In 'Emergency Mode' After Latest Indian Ocean Quake

One hundred days after the massive 26 December tsunami in the Indian Ocean left an arc of destruction from Thailand to the Horn of Africa, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is back in action providing urgently needed relief to more than 200,000 victims of Indonesia's latest earthquake.

Jean-Jacques Graisse, WFP's Senior Deputy Executive Director, described the powerful 28 March quake that ripped through the islands off Indonesia's west coast as "a crushing blow" to the local people as he travelled today to Sumatra to view the damage first hand and assess humanitarian needs.

"It was a massive challenge to get aid to Indonesia after the [earlier] tsunami," he said, "and the humanitarian community has responded in record time to this latest disaster."

Because of the incredible response to the December tragedy, WFP had plenty of supplies close by and was on the scene last Monday within hours to get food and other relief aid to the devastated islands of Simeulue and Nias. According to the agency the number of people affected keeps growing, as its assessment teams continue to locate island communities, as well as coastal communities on the Sumatra mainland that were crushed by the quake.

WFP is using helicopters, small aircraft, landing craft and ships to rush food aid to the earthquake zone, while also giving cargo space to other aid agencies for the transport of relief materiel such as water purification equipment, tents and blankets. Effectively working at two speeds, WFP is in full emergency mode providing relief aid to the some damaged areas, while in others it has already shifted into rebuilding communities.

Mr. Graisse stressed that the recent quake had not diminished the agency's efforts to continue providing food to tsunami survivors in other countries. For example, WFP is currently feeding 915,000 Sri Lankans, 42,000 Maldivians and 30,000 Somalis. In addition, the agency's food-for-work projects in Myanmar are well underway, with some 8,000 tsunami survivors rebuilding bridges, roads, ponds and dykes in exchange for rations of rice, cooking oil and beans.

Stressing that WFP had succeeded in averting starvation and widespread malnutrition in the wake of the tsunami, Mr. Graisse said the humanitarian community could not afford to be complacent. "This latest earthquake has shown how vulnerable people in this region are."

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