When we asked Philippe Martou, our Deputy Chief of Aviation, if he could fill us in on the helicopter operations in Pakistan, we were expecting numbers and runs etc.. What we got was a peek inside what WFPs work and staff are all about. This is what he had to say:
Today, I arrived in Sukhur, Sindh, to oversee our helicopter operations into the flooded areas. A little tired as I’ve been here for two weeks now running around to set-up the air operations and I just arrived from Karachi to accept 4 new helicopters into our fleet.
Sukhur is warm, even hotter than Islamabad or Karachi, 40 C and climbing.
One of our helicopters just returned from its deliveries to Ghourpur where they went into a secure landing zone and off-loaded 3 mt (metric tons) of wheat and high energy biscuits (HEBs). The site, however, was closed off for further flights in the afternoon. On the way back to Sukhur, we noticed lots of stranded people waving. We decided to return to the area and perform what I call a hovering delivery as landing in those areas is not possible due to standing water, obstacles and too many people. ( Hovering delivery is a helicopter delivery method where the helicopter is hovering 3 to 5 meters above the ground and the relief goods are dropped by hand.)
30-minute flights brought us from Sukhur to Ghourpur, but for the people of Ghourpur, Sukhur could have been on another continent as it was completely cut-off and isolated with all roads submerged and only houses, lots of houses, sticking out of the water.
We attached ourselves with straps to the helicopter and opened the back cargo doors and the passenger door at the front of the helicopter. Standing there, 50 meters above the water with a box HEBs ready to drop, the helicopter continued its descent to 4 meters above ground.
We started to drop the HEB and wheat bags. People came running towards the delivery site and we are obliged to start moving slowly to avoid dropping the cargo on people. I shall never forget those people, those faces, those needs.
The 3 mt of food are gone way too fast and I feel sorry not be able to give them more.
We had to stop our rotations because of the fading daylight, but we will be back tomorrow and the day after and the week after this one, for as long as it is required.
Today we really helped and made a difference.