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UN Needs $24 Million To Maintain Helicopters

UN Needs $24 Million To Maintain Helicopter Operation For Pakistan Quake Victims

New York, Feb 17 2006

Emphasizing the “crucial” role played by helicopters in getting emergency assistance to victims of last year’s deadly earthquake in northern Pakistan, the United Nations World Food Programme called today for $24 million to maintain this lifeline until the end of August for thousands of survivors.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said that it was currently assisting 400,000 people in remote and cut-off areas who can only be reached by helicopter, adding that the 20-helicopter airlift is now moving 300 tons of relief supplies every day, with a record breaking 415 tons delivered on one day earlier this month.

“Since the earthquake struck in October, these helicopters have been crucial in transporting food and non-food items, like medicine and warm clothing and they have helped to prevent many deaths,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

“However, winter is not yet over and hundreds of thousands of people still urgently need to be reached,” he added. The 8 October earthquake killed more than 73,000 people, injured nearly 70,000 and left millions homeless.

WFP said that the urgent need for $24 million was based on a thorough analysis of operational requirements for the last stages of winter and into early spring, and the agency also said that road access to many areas was expected to remain limited for some time due to ongoing landslides.

“If food and other essential items can no longer be airlifted into the mountain valleys, the earthquake survivors, who have no other means of subsistence, will be at further risk,” said Michael Jones, WFP’s Country Director in Pakistan.

“We need the helicopters to provide food, seeds, fertilizers and other equipment for reconstruction. We’ll be relying on pack animals but there is an overall shortage of animals to transport the required amount of assistance. Thus the crucial need for supplemental air assistance,” stressed Jones.

WFP said that since the beginning of the air operation – the largest relief helicopter operation in the UN’s history – the WFP/UN Humanitarian Air Service has airlifted more than 14,000 tons of food and 4,000 tons of non-food items such as tents and tools, on behalf of the humanitarian community.

This is in addition to transporting nearly 28,000 passengers, including bringing thousands of humanitarian workers to the affected zones, and evacuating some 6,000 sick and wounded to the nearest hospitals.

ENDS

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