Historic humanitarian helicopter service ends in Pakistan

Published on 31 May 2006

The largest humanitarian helicopter operation ever organised by the United Nations ended today after having successfully transported nearly 30,000 tonnes of aid supplies and tens of thousands of aid workers and other passengers to the Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir struck by a devastating earthquake eight months ago.

The largest humanitarian helicopter operation ever organised by the United Nations ended today after having successfully transported nearly 30,000 tonnes of aid supplies and tens of thousands of aid workers and other passengers to the Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir struck by a devastating earthquake eight months ago.

These helicopters remained crucial in transporting food and non-food items like medicine and warm clothing and they helped to prevent many deaths during the emergency phase

Michael Jones, WFP Country Director in Pakistan

The United Nations Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS), which was administered by the World Food Programme, started two days after the massive earthquake killed over 73,000 people on 8 October 2005.

“We would have liked to keep a smaller fleet during the coming monsoon period when some roads could be blocked, but we do not have enough resources to maintain the operation,” said Michael Jones, WFP Country Director in Pakistan.

Saving lives

UNHAS flew 24 helicopters until March 2006, including eight from the United States and NATO forces.

By the end of April, UNHAS was left with only eight helicopters. During May it worked with four helicopters.

“These helicopters remained crucial in transporting food and non-food items like medicine and warm clothing and they helped to prevent many deaths during the emergency phase,” said Jones.

Vital help

“WFP/UNHAS airlifted more than 28,000 tonnes of food and other aid supplies such as tents and tools, on behalf of the humanitarian community. This was in addition to transporting nearly 40,000 passengers, including thousands of humanitarian workers to the affected areas, and evacuating some 8,200 sick and wounded to the nearest hospitals,” said Shorty Adlard, chief of UNHAS air operations.

Following the earthquake, the helicopter operation proved vital in reaching hundreds of thousands of people in areas cut off by landslides. The WFP/UNHAS fleet included MI-8, MI-26 and KA32 models.

The agency also had support from US Chinooks, German Stallions and Australian Black Hawks.