MOSCOW - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) started the distribution of food assistance this week to the hundreds of children and adults caught up in the Beslan hostage-taking tragedy which left 338 dead and 747 injured.
In response to requests from doctors in Beslan, North Ossetia, WFP began on Monday an initial one-week distribution of various food commodities to three hospitals in Beslan and the regional capital, Vladikavkaz, where many of the victims were taken.
"What happened in Beslan is a terrible tragedy. WFP is determined to do all it can to alleviate the suffering of the victims," said Chris Czerwinski, Country Director of WFP's operations in Russia.
WFP's ability to respond quickly to the crisis was partly due to the agency's existing capacity in the north Caucasus region of southern Russia, where it has been providing emergency assistance since January 2000 to 290,000 people affected by the conflict in and around Chechnya.
WFP has received various donations to ensure the continuation of assistance over the next three weeks. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation rapidly responded with a donation of US$10,000, while TNT, the Dutch mail, express and logistics company, immediately authorised the use of US$3,000, partly raised by staff contributions in Moscow.
The TNT donation was used by WFP to purchase food on the local market in Vladikavkaz. In addition to WFP's commodities of sugar, flour and rice, the agency also included yoghurt, milk, pasta, condensed milk, dried fruits and jam in its relief package.
Earlier in the week, the Nestlé corporation also confirmed a contribution of eight metric tons of chocolate bars, breakfast cereal and juice. On Thursday, EMERCOM, Russia's Ministry for Emergencies, began transporting the Nestlé donation on an Ilyushin-76 to North Ossetia. WFP immediately facilitated the distribution to the victims of Beslan.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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