WFP calls for helicopters to bring food to flood-victims

The World Food Programme said Friday it urgently needs helicopters to get food to millions of flood victims in Pakistan who remain cut off by the high waters.

“At the moment we’re recognising that there’s a real massive need for a boost in air delivery capacity immediately to reach the people who remain cut off and those who are going to continue to be affected in the weeks to come,” said Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the UN food agency.

The WFP managed to secure permission Friday to bring in another five choppers, in addition to another 10 which are currently in service.

Casella did not have a figure of how many more are needed, but said: “You could bring in a lot of helicopters and we will use them all.”

On Thursday, the 10 helicopters and 200 trucks currently in use managed to provide food to 125,000 people, a mere fraction of the millions in need.

“We need the helicopters now at this stage,” added the WFP spokeswoman, pointing out that they are essential at the moment as roads remain cut off by flood waters.

The agency has managed to get one-month food rations to 1.2 million flood victims, but Casella noted that the figure was far from the agency’s target of six million.

Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that UN agencies were ramping up their aid effort and that the international community was also coming forward to help.

“There is currently a movement of solidarity… We have received 55 percent of the appeal of the 460 million appeal that we had launched,” she said.

But Byrs also stressed that the full picture of the devastation by the floods was only beginning to emerge.

“It’s a disaster that came very slowly, it’s not an earthquake that hits suddenly that we can immediately see the victims. But we are now seeing the magnitude of this catastrophe.”

The UN was also expected to raise its funding appeal in the coming weeks, she said.

“The appeal will definitely be revised. It was an appeal for three months, an appeal for urgent aid… This appeal will be revised in the coming month,” she said.

Nearly 1,500 people have been killed by the devastating floods, and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Wednesday that 20 million people have been affected.