50 Times More Food Moved By Air As WFP Tackles Multiple Emergencies

Published on 22 July 2014

Copyright WFP/Jonathan Dumont

GENEVA – A surge of conflict in the first half of this year prompted a more than fifty-fold increase in the amount of life-saving food and goods moved globally by air by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to reach those in need, compared to the same period last year.

More than 90 percent of the supplies were delivered to the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria, where conflict has displaced millions of people and cut off communities. Insecurity, limited humanitarian access and rains often mean food and other supplies cannot be moved by road or boat.

From January to June 2014, WFP Aviation delivered some 7,600 metric tons (mt) of food as well as 1,189 mt of relief supplies and equipment for WFP and for other humanitarian organizations to 21 countries. The total figure of 8,789 mt of cargo is over 56 times what was transported by air during the same six-month period in 2013, when 156 mt was delivered.

“Dealing with simultaneous emergencies in three countries – the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria – meant calling on our deep expertise in tough places and WFP’s ability to scale up swiftly  to deliver life-saving supplies to people in desperate need,” said Cesar Arroyo, Chief, WFP Aviation, at a briefing in Geneva. “Thankfully, our donors have supported this effort.”

Of the total 8,789 mt of cargo, the largest share – 53 percent – was flown to South Sudan, 22 percent to the Central African Republic and 16 percent to Syria.  

In addition, WFP Aviation in March 2014 began airdropping urgently needed food to inaccessible areas of South Sudan; carrying out a total of 236 airdrops for 300,000 people by the end of June.

Airlifts are carried out when aircraft can safely land to unload humanitarian supplies, including fragile cargo such medicines, whereas airdrops are carried out in communities where suitable landing facilities are not available.

WFP Aviation has had to overcome a shortage of sufficient air assets and drastic cost variations on the charter market during emergencies, as well as bureaucratic hurdles and insufficient cargo-handling infrastructure and airports in many countries.

Timely and flexible funding is crucial to allow WFP to pre-position food by other means than air, particularly in areas at high risk of natural disasters, or where the rainy season will make communities and towns inaccessible.

However, significant security risks, limited humanitarian access due to blocked roadways and poor infrastructure as well as the looting of food stocks means that WFP Aviation air delivery is sometimes the only effective way to reach people in desperate need in emergencies.

For photos of WFP Aviation operations click here:
For video footage of WFP Aviation click here:
For infographic of WFP Aviation click here:

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food in emergencies and working with communities to build resilience. In 2013, WFP assisted more than 80 million people in 75 countries.

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For more information, please contact:
Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 473 4570
Frances Kennedy, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 3725, Mob. +39 3467600806
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.  +44 20 72409001, Mob.  +44 7968 008474
Steve Taravella, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-653-1149, Mob. +1-202-770-5993