Pakistan: WFP Steps Up Airlifts To Reach Stranded Flood Victims

Published on 22 August 2010

The first of three heavy-lift MI8-171 helicopters arrived in Pakistan on Sunday to join the airborne relief effort to flood-hit communities. Copyright:WFP/Frances Kennedy

As floodwaters continue to wreak havoc across Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of people have been cut off from help. WFP is stepping up airlifts of food and supplies for these isolated communities and bringing in more helicopters. Three new ones arrived on Sunday.

ISLAMABAD – Three WFP-chartered helicopters arrived in Islamabad on Sunday to form the basis of a dedicated fleet that will deliver food and other assistance for the entire humanitarian community as it responds to the devastating floods in Pakistan.

With more than 800,000 people estimated cut off from road access – helicopters are increasingly vital assets in the race to reach the hungry and desperate. WFP estimates it still needs at least 40 additional heavy lift helicopters working at full capacity to get food supplies to those who need it. See news release

“We need more of these lifesavers,” said WFP Pakistan Country Director Wolfgang Herbinger. “Helicopters are the only way to deliver supplies into many areas which is why we’re already using every aircraft currently available to us.”

Inaccessible by land

Many communities are inaccessible by land because of floodwaters or because roads and bridges have been washed away.

Ten helicopters, made available by the Pakistan government, have been flying daily sorties to locations in the north, Punjab and Sindh. In addition, C130 transport planes are being used to carry larger amounts of food into the southern city of Jacobabad, which has been completely cut off.

The three new MI8-171 helicopters, each of which can carry four tons of mainly food cargo, will first be inspected for safety and then deployed on Tuesday to Multan.

They will be used initially to airlift desperately needed food supplies to people stranded or evacuated in the Punjab region. An additional two helicopters will join them soon.

Dedicated fleet

The helicopters are part of a fleet of aircraft which will be devoted entirely to the flood response and managed by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has agreed to provide as many additional air assets as possible to WFP, as they become available.

WFP is the international humanitarian community’s lead agency for logistics and is managing all available air assets in Pakistan to move not only food, but also other urgently required relief items, including shelter material.

Despite enormous and ongoing logistical challenges, WFP has provided more than 1.2 million people with a one-month ration of food, as well as enough high-energy biscuits to meet the nutritional needs of some 350,000 children.

Working with over 30 NGOs, WFP is providing food to between 125,000 and 150,000 people per day with an eye towards reaching more  than six million people with food aid over the next three months.

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about the author

Frances Kennedy

Spokesperson - Global Issues

A former journalist, Frances works as a Public Information Officer at WFP's Rome headquarters. She is currently on a mission to the typhon-hit region of the Philippines.