WFP has welcomed a US$10 million contribution from DFID, the UK Department for International Development, to help operate a helicopter fleet bringing assistance to the survivors of the massive earthquake that hit Pakistan last October.
“We are grateful to DFID for its funding but also for the extra ‘eyes and ears’ it provided. DFID has helped us with monitoring the situation and provided advice and identified gaps as well,” said Michael Jones, WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Pakistan.
The contribution will help the UN airlift operation to continue until the end of March. However, a part of DFID’s money will also secure the operation of four MI-8 helicopters until 3 May.
“We are very pleased. DFID is our biggest donor. They have always helped,” said Einar Schjolberg, head of UNHAS, the UN Humanitarian Air Cargo and Passenger Services, that is running the helicopter operation in Pakistan.
DFID has been so far the biggest contributor to the UN airlift operation in Pakistan, providing more than US$13 million.
It also gave funding for other UN logistics operations, including truck transport and the establishment of camps and tented warehouses.
The UK has contributed a total of US$15.836 million to WFP’s earthquake relief operation, making it one of the main donors.
More funds needed
DFID has helped us with monitoring the situation and provided advice and identified gaps as well
Michael Jones, WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Pakistan
So far, UNHAS has received contributions of only 54 percent of the US$100 million appeal. It warned that if additional funding does not come in, the current operation may have to stop in the second half of March.
Since the earthquake hit the mountainous region of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 8 October, killing over 73,000 people and making about 2.5 million people homeless, air operations have been vital for reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
The affected population lives scattered in remote and high-altitude areas difficult to reach as roads have been blocked and access cut by landslides.
To overcome this logistic challenge, WFP conducted jointly with UNHAS and the UN Joint Logistics Center the biggest helicopter operation in its history.
In total, UNHAS has deployed a fleet comprised of 14 MI-8, two MI-26 and two KA30 helicopters.
Since the beginning of the air operation, UNHAS has airlifted 7,752 tonnes of food and 1,995 tonnes of non-food items, such as tents and tools, in addition to serving nearly 16,000 passengers.
Earlier this month, heavy snow, rain and low visibility grounded the helicopters. Many roads were blocked as well. But the airlift operation has now resumed as weather conditions have improved.
Thanks to the helicopters, WFP was able to pre-position food in high altitude areas (over 5,000 feet above sea level or about 1,670 metres) which are no longer accessible due to the snowfall.
This food will assist hundreds of thousands of people living in these areas for up to two months.