As the massive scale of the earthquake disaster that has struck Pakistan, northern India and Afghanistan becomes apparent, WFP is mobilising urgent relief, including a planned airlift to Pakistan of 120 metric tons of high energy biscuits.
The vitamin-fortified biscuits, essential in the very first days of a natural disaster when survivors have no means to cook their own food, will provide life-saving energy and strength to some 240,000 victims of the October 8 disaster for five days.
Many have already been hit by huge natural disasters this year
Amir Abdulla, WFP Regional Director
"Many of these people have already been hit by huge natural disasters this year. This makes it even more imperative that there are no delays in the international community’s response," said Amir Abdulla, Regional Director for WFP's operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Many of the people worst-hit by Saturday’s earthquake were also subjected to unprecedented rains and snowfall last winter, followed by floods and avalanches in February 2005.
To fund its initial food assistance, WFP is using up to US$500,000 from its emergency response account. A wider appeal for relief assistance to underwrite the agency’s emergency food and logistics operation in the region may be launched in the next few days, following the availability of more information on the needs of the affected populations.
WFP has sent teams today to the worst-affected areas, part of three Interagency rapid assessment missions dispatched by the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT).
The teams will visit Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistani-administered Kashmir and the Northern Areas.
WFP logistics expertise will be essential in identifying the fastest way to provide emergency relief to earthquake survivors, many of whom are located in remote, mountainous areas.
Helicopters and trucks will be needed to reach towns and villages cut-off by landslides.
The 7.4 magnitude earthquake has devastated northern Pakistan, claiming an estimated 30,000 lives, according to official Government estimates.
The worst-hit areas are NWFP, five districts of Azad of Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) state, including Muzaffarabad. Most of the multi-storey buildings and mud houses have collapsed with large-scale casualties and injuries.
In the very first days of a natural disaster like Saturday's earthquake, survivors are not able to cook their own food so WFP provides high-energy biscuits, rations or even freshly baked bread for people.
WFP's vitamin-fortified high-energy biscuits are essential to give people energy and strength whilst they wait for help. If the biscuits can't be brought by road they are dropped by plane or helicopter.
WFP's emergency ration includes about one and a half cups of rice or flour, a tablespoon of beans or lentils, a spoonful of oil and a pinch of salt.
It costs an average of US$0.29 and provides 2,100 kilocalories - the recommended daily energy intake for active adults.
The people most at risk of malnutrition - especially women and children - often receive specially blended foods that contain all the vitamins and minerals they need to survive. They may be given this food in biscuit form or in a flour which can be mixed into porridge.
The average cost of a day's ration of high-energy biscuits is US$0.55.