DAKAR – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is planning airlifts in the coming days to provide life-saving food assistance to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Côte d’Ivoire and Ivorian refugees in neighbouring Liberia.
“We need to open up a humanitarian lifeline to the many Ivorians who are now the victims of alarming shortages of food, water and other basic needs,” said WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran.
WFP is airlifting food this week from Niger and Mali into Man, in western Côte d’Ivoire and Monrovia in Liberia as part of a plan to transport 15, 000 metric tons of cereals, vegetable oil and other food assistance.
“The deteriorating security situation, difficulties of moving around and the difficulty of food procurement in Côte d’Ivoire have compounded the already arduous logistics conditions which WFP has had to confront. Right now an airlift is the best way forward,” said Sheeran.
Other airlifts of high energy biscuits - designed to keep hunger at bay in the first days of a food crisis - and of logistics equipment, such as vehicles and ICT material - have been organised from Dubai and Accra.
WFP plans to launch passenger flights for humanitarian workers to northern towns such as Bouaké and Man, where some relief agencies have re-based their operations. As the lead agency for logistics, WFP manages the humanitarian air service (UNHAS) on behalf of the whole aid community. It is considering the use of a coastal vessel to transport more food between the countries of the region.
In spite of the difficult security situation and the lack of safe humanitarian corridors, WFP has managed to transport and distribute 85 metric tons of food to 27, 500 displaced people in the western town of Duekoué. General food distributions are scheduled during this week for around 30, 000 displaced people in the Danané area.
In the northern regions, including Bouaké, Bouna, Tiébissou and Korhogo, WFP is distributing one-month food rations to 20, 000 displaced, using stocks of food from pre-existing programmes.
WFP has temporarily suspended food distributions in Abidjan and relocated its staff. However, WFP operations will resume as soon as the security situation allows for free movement within the city.
In Liberia, where more than 130, 000 Ivorians have taken refuge since December 2010, WFP is mounting a logistically challenging operation, made worse by the poor road and bridge conditions and the onset of the rainy season, in a remote and inaccessible area of the country. The UN agency has revised its plans in Liberia upwards to reach 150, 000 Ivorian refugees as well as 36, 000 Liberian host families, with 25, 000 metric tons of food.
However, while the crisis is worsening, WFP emergency operations still face a shortfall of US$ 16.7 million (52 percent) in Liberia and US$ 4.5 million (28 percent) in Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, an essential telecommunications operation aimed at strengthening logistics and communications capacities, faces a US$ 2.5 million shortfall.
“There is now an urgent need for donors to come forward and help us to help the victims on both sides of the border,” said Thomas Yanga, WFP's West Africa Regional Director. “We are afraid that even more support will be necessary as the humanitarian needs are massively increasing by the day.”