ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced the launch of a three-month emergency operation to feed 100,000 victims of the earthquake that devastated the Iranian city of Bam in the southeastern part of the country on 26 December 2003.
The earthquake, which struck in the early morning hours, killed more than 30,000 people and left 30,000 injured. Some 85 percent of the homes and infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, were destroyed beyond repair. Many families are now forced to live in tented camps in near-freezing weather conditions.
"Most people have lost family members, their homes and all their belongings. The food WFP is sending will fill their immediate needs while they get to the immense task of rebuilding their lives and securing other sources of support," said Marius de Gaay Fortman, WFP's Representative in Iran.
WFP's emergency aid package of 6,512 metric tons of commodities, worth US$2.9 million, will ensure that each beneficiary receives a daily ration of bread, rice, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar, nutritional biscuits and salt. The operation is part of the UN Flash Appeal announced Thursday by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, together with the revised appeal of the International Federation of the Red Crescent.
The entire population of Bam and the surrounding villages, amounting to about 200,000 people, have been affected by the earthquake which measured 6.5 on the Richter Scale. The Bam district, which was the epicentre of the earthquake, is among the poorest regions in the country and has experienced severe drought in recent years.
"The overwhelming devastation caused by the earthquake magnifies the already existing poverty in the region and will certainly affect most of the population's ability to feed themselves," added Fortman.
As part of its immediate response to the disaster, WFP airlifted 35 metric tons of special nutritional biscuits, which provide each person with 450 kilocalories. An additional 109 metric tons of these High Energy biscuits donated by the Government of India have also been delivered overland and another 450 metric tons have been made available by India in response to WFP's initial appeal.
In addition to food, WFP will operate a UN Humanitarian Air Service aircraft for one week to facilitate the transport of relief workers to Bam and Kerman from within the country. The Agency has also provided urgently needed mobile storage units, each with a capacity of 400-500 metric tons.
"The earthquake further reduced the already limited storage capacity of Bam," said Fortman. "Thanks to WFP's corporate partner, TPG/TNT Airways, which made available a Boeing 737, we were able to quickly airlift four tents from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, Italy."
In December 2002, Mail, Express and Logistics company TPG N.V. committed itself to partnering with WFP in its fight against world hunger for at least five years.
WFP's first emergency operation was in Iran, assisting thousands of victims of the 1962 earthquake in the area of Boein Zahra. Since then WFP has been working with the Iranian Red Crescent Society, WFP's current implementing partner. In addition to the latest emergency operation, WFP provides relief assistance to more than 60,000 Afghan and Iraqi refugees in 29 camps as well as to non-camp refugees in the province of Sistan Baluchistan. The aim is to support the refugees' readiness for their return to Afghanistan and Iraq.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2003, WFP fed nearly 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
For more information please contact:
Public Affairs Officer, WFP/Cairo
Marius de Gaay Fortman
WFP Representative, WFP/Iran
Head of Logistics Unit, WFP/Iran