UN: 19 November 2007 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it is teaming up with Bangladesh’s Air Force to airdrop emergency food supplies to hundreds of thousands of people stranded after a deadly cyclone struck the country last week.
At least 2,400 people are known to have lost their lives as a result of Cyclone Sidr which hit Bangladesh on Thursday. In addition, thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, large tracts of cropland have been wiped and hundreds of thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes and now depend on aid for basic necessities.
WFP said in a press release today that it has, along with the country’s Air Force, begun using helicopters to airdrop high-energy biscuits, which are considered crucial when people lack the means to prepare cooked food. So far WFP has delivered biscuits to more than 650,000 people in the worst hit areas by land, air and boat.
“WFP was able to deliver food within hours of the cyclone hitting Bangladesh, because we pre-positioned stocks ahead of the first storm warnings,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.
In the next few days, WFP plans to distribute 2,000 tonnes of biscuits – or enough to feed hundreds of thousands of the country’s poorest for 15 days. It also intends to start distributing rice to people returning to their homes and villages.
Meanwhile, a 12-person UN assessment team from WFP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is visiting some of the worst affected districts to assess the damage and the needs of the most vulnerable.
The deadly disaster has prompted concern from a number of senior UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who yesterday voiced his concern at the death and devastation left in the wake of Cyclone Sidr.
Echoing Mr. Ban’s concern was the President of the General Assembly who today expressed the 192-member body’s deepest sympathy to the people and Government of Bangladesh on the recent tragedy. Srgjan Kerim said he hoped the international community will show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to assist those affected.
The UN has announced it will make available several million dollars from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which was established to expedite aid operations following disasters.