BANGKOK - One hundred days after the 26 December tsunami ripped through the Indian Ocean, the World Food Programme is back in emergency mode to get urgently needed relief to more than 200,000 victims of Indonesia's latest earthquake.
WFP was on the scene within hours to get food and other humanitarian aid flowing to the Indonesian islands devastated by the 28 March earthquake. The number of people affected by this latest disaster keeps swelling, as WFP assessment teams continue to find communities on Simeulue and Nias Islands, plus coastal communities on the Sumatra mainland that have been crushed by the quake.
"This latest earthquake is a crushing blow to the local people," said Jean-Jacques Graisse, WFP Senior Deputy Executive Director, said today, en route to Sumatra to view first-hand the damage caused by the earthquake and ensuing humanitarian needs..
"It was a massive challenge to get aid to Indonesia after the tsunami and the humanitarian community has responded in record time to this latest disaster. Our saving grace was the incredible response from donors to the tsunami, which meant we had plenty of relief supplies close by."
WFP is using helicopters, small aircraft, landing craft and ships to rush food aid to the earthquake zone, while also giving cargo space to other aid agencies for the transport of relief materiel such as water purification equipment, tents and blankets.
"We're now effectively working at two speeds," said Graisse. "On the one hand we're in full emergency mode to get urgently needed food and other aid to the people on Nias and Simeulue while in other places, we've already shifted into rebuilding communities."
WFP, the world's largest humanitarian agency, is providing essential food aid to 1.75 million tsunami survivors who lost their homes, livelihoods and family members. Mounting one of its most complex emergency operations ever, the agency has so far moved more than 60,000 metric tons of food - fortified biscuits and noodle, rice, oil, sugar and pulses - using military and civilian helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, cargo ships, landing craft and the traditional trucks.
Graisse emphasized that WFP had succeeded in averting starvation and widespread malnutrition in the wake of the tsunami. "But we can't afford to be complacent. This latest earthquake has shown how vulnerable people in this region are," Graisse said. "We're working to help survivors rebuild their homes, communities and livelihoods."
In the post-emergency phase of the tsunami emergency operation, WFP has started to help people rebuild their communities. In both Sri Lanka and Indonesia, WFP has mapped out a strategy for providing nutritious food to the most vulnerable members of the population - orphans, widows, mothers who are the heads of their households, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and schoolchildren.
In Indonesia, general food distribution is giving way to targeted assistance for 350,000 primary school children, 55,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers and 130,000 children under five years of age. These are the groups of people who most need nutritious food at this very crucial stage of their lives.
WFP will help restore the livelihoods of Indonesian communities affected by the tsunami through food-for-work, and is talking with the Indonesian Government, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other agencies on other possible partnerships.
In Sri Lanka, WFP is feeding 915,000 people affected by the tsunami. This month it will start a school feeding programme for 120,000 children, who will get a nutritious snack in school. This is in addition to the 165,000 children who were already enrolled in WFP school feeding programmes before the tsunami. And in order to prevent malnutrition, WFP will begin distributing corn-soya blended food to 200,000 "vulnerable group" members and to 112,000 mothers and infants. By June, WFP will be assisting a further 277,000 people to rebuild roads and other local infrastructure in the affected areas.
Also in Sri Lanka, WFP will work in partnership with organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help people clear debris from their land, rebuild their houses and resume their fishing activities by providing boats and nets. WFP and the International Labour Organization (ILO) carried out a joint livelihoods and food security assessment in January which indicated that before the disaster, some 37 percent of households in the area relied on fishing for a living. Now that figure is only one percent.
WFP is working in the Maldives with the Government of Maldives to distribute food assistance for up to 42,000 people. The joint programme, which started in mid-February, will assist the Government to give rice, pulses, oil and sugar to those most affected in the initial months while they are working to get their lives back on track.
This food support is being used to assist islands like Buruni where the work of reconstruction and rebuilding is going full steam ahead. The island of Buruni had a sudden growth in population to over 1,300, with the arrival of some 800 people that were evacuated from the island of Vilufushi. This small island today is bustling with activity as new homes are being constructed to house the displaced families and the local school is being expanded to accommodate the increased number of children that have doubled the student body.
WFP also initiated a school feeding programme of fortified biscuits for approximately 24,000 school children over a seven week period. The programme was launched with the reopening of schools on 25 January.
In Myanmar, WFP food-for-work projects are well underway. Some 7,000 people in Myanmar's Irrawaddy Division are constructing 20 ponds to hold drinking water, six kilometers of village roads and two wooden bridges destroyed by the tsunami. In return, they are getting four months' supply of rice, cooking oil and beans. In the southern Kawthaung district, near the Thai border, WFP is giving the same ration to 1,000 people who are rebuilding access roads and rehabilitating sea dykes damaged by the waves.
In Somalia, WFP is meeting the food needs of 30,000 tsunami affected people in villages and settlements along a 650 km stretch of Indian Ocean coastline. Less than 25 percent of fishermen have resumed their trade since the tsunami and WFP is investigating how to help them rebuild their houses and restore their livelihoods with new fishing equipment, more reliable water sources, and road rehabilitation.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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