AMMAN – Syrians stranded at the border with Jordan received this week much-needed food and other supplies in a unique operation that saw the aid hoisted by crane across the closed frontier.
In a first delivery of humanitarian assistance since the border was sealed in June, food provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), bread from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNICEF hygiene kits were lifted from the Jordanian side by 70-metre-high cranes and lowered into encampments for the displaced in the Syrian desert.
More than 75,000 people seeking to escape the conflict in Syria are living in an area of earthen embankments between the two countries known as the “berm”.
“Most are women, children and the elderly – many of them sick or wounded – who have no access to food or medicine. They are living in tents, enduring temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celsius,” said Mageed Yahia, WFP Representative and Country Director in Jordan. “This unconventional operation was designed to give them at least temporary relief.”
Jordan sealed the area following an attack in June on Jordanian military personnel. Before the border closure, UN agencies and aid organizations regularly delivered supplies from the Jordanian side to people stranded in no man’s land.
The 650 metric tons of aid was delivered to two locations, Rukban and Hadalat, over three days.
“We are very grateful for the support of the Jordanian government and the Jordan Armed Forces – Arab Army to make this happen,” said Yahia. “It is a one-off distribution but we are working on reaching a longer term solution to the needs of the tens of thousands of people in the area.”
It was the first time WFP used cranes to deliver relief items. Community and tribal leaders were trained to organise and carry out the distributions. Drones flying overhead monitored the operation to ensure it was conducted in an orderly fashion.
The berm operation was made possible by a contribution from The Kingdom of the Netherlands which funded half of the food delivered by crane.
Prior to the June suspension of humanitarian activities in the area, and since March this year, WFP was regularly delivering food parcels thanks to contributions from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO), Germany and the Republic of Korea.
The success of the operation was a result of joint UN efforts led by the World Food Programme, involving support from the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan and the Embassy of the United States of America in Amman.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
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