The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun airlifts to provide life-saving food assistance to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Cote d’Ivoire and Ivorian refugees in neighbouring Liberia.
“We need to open up a humanitarian lifeline to the many Ivorians who are now the victims of alarming shortages of food, water and other basic needs,” said WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.
WFP is airlifting food this week from Niger and Mali into Man in western Cote d’Ivoire and Monrovia in Liberia as part of a plan to transport 15,000 metric tons of cereals, vegetable oil and other food assistance.
“The deteriorating security situation, difficulties of moving around and the difficulty of food procurement in Cote d’Ivoire have compounded the already arduous logistics conditions which WFP has had to confront. Right now an airlift is the best way forward,” said Sheeran.
Other airlifts of high energy biscuits – designed to keep hunger at bay in the first days of a food crisis – and of logistics equipment, such as vehicles, ICT materials and prefabricated office/warehousing units – have been organized from Dubai and WFP’s United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra.
WFP has begun passenger flights from Accra for humanitarian workers to northern towns such as Bouake and Man, where some relief agencies have re-based their operations.
As the lead agency for logistics, WFP manages the humanitarian air service (UNHAS) on behalf of the whole aid community. It is considering the use of a coastal vessel to transport more food between the countries of the region.
In spite of the difficult security situation and lack of safe humanitarian corridors, WFP has managed to transport and distribute 85 metric tons of food to 27,000 displaced people in the western town of Duekoue.
General food distributions are scheduled during this week for around 30,000 displaced people in the Danane area.
In the northern regions, including Bouake, Bouna, Tiebissou and Korhogo, WFP is distributing one-month food rations to 20,000 displaced, using stocks of food from pre-existing programmes.
The statement said WFP had temporarily suspended food distributions in Abidjan and relocated its staff. It said WFP operations would resume as soon as the security situation allowed for free moment within the city.
It said in Liberia, where more than 147,000 Ivorians had taken refugee since December 2010, WFP was mounting a logistically challenging operation, made worse by the poor road and bridge conditions and the onset of the rainy season, in a remote and inaccessible area of the country.
The UN Agency has revised its plans in Liberia upwards to reach 150,000 Ivorian refugees as well as 36,000 Liberian host families, with 25,000 metric tons of food.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered food for 5,000 Ivorian refugees the Western and Brong Ahafo Regions in Ghana.
It said while the crisis was worsening, WFP emergency operations still faced a shortfall of $12 million (38 per cent) in Liberia and 3.8 million dollars (24 per cent) in Cote d’Ivoire.
In addition, an essential telecommunications operation aimed at strengthening logistics and communications capacities, faces $2.5 million shortfall.
“There is now an urgent need for donors to come forward and help us to help the victims on both sides of the border,” said Thomas Yanga, WFP Regional Director. “We are afraid that even more support will be necessary as the humanitarian needs are massively increasing by the day.”
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Each year, on average, WFP feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.