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WFP responds to Tsunami: First food aid for victims in Sri Lanka


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ROME Today the United Nations World Food Programme sent its first truckloads of relief food to 12 districts in Sri Lanka that have been devastated by the massive tidal surges sweeping the Indian Ocean region. The 168 tonnes of commodities are part of a WFP stockpile in the country of more than 4,000 tonnes of rice, wheatflour, lentils and sugar -- enough to provide an emergency ration to 500,000 people for two weeks.

According to fresh reports from WFP in Sri Lanka, the number of people affected continues to rise, with at least one million displaced from their homes. Many have taken refuge in public buildings, schools and makeshift camps.

"We are especially concerned about people in remote coastal areas, which are difficult to reach because many roads and bridges have been destroyed," said Jeff Taft Dick, WFP Country Director in Sri Lanka. The WFP food is heading for the East and Southern coastlines, which have been hardest hit, including the districts of Ampara, Batticaola, Trincomalee (East) and Hambantota, Matara, Galle (South).

The food will be distributed to families through government agents, who have already issued emergency stop-gap supplies. WFP's main implementing partner, the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation (MRRR) is involved.

As the scale of the disaster across the vast Indian Ocean region of Asia becomes apparent, WFP Country Directors have immediately responded by committing an initial US$1.5 million to the most urgent food aid needs for hundreds of thousands of Tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand.

The cash, taken from WFP's own emergency response account, is part of a much larger regional response and forthcoming appeal that will require significant donor contributions. WFP will manage and coordinate the food aid response to the region, cooperating with fellow UN agencies, relief partners, NGOs and the national governments concerned.

Across the region, WFP has quickly identified stockpiles of its available food in order to send it to the stricken areas. The contingency funds of US$500,000 in each of the worst affected countries will be used to purchase food close to the disaster zones for immediate distribution to the hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered.

As search and rescue operations continue and medical assistance to the victims is provided, food aid for those who have lost their homes and belongings in the destruction -- together with health, shelter and sanitation concerns -- will become more acute.

WFP has deployed more emergency teams to areas hardest hit in the region, to assist with rapid assessments and food distribution. Larger teams are being assembled. Communication lines remain extremely problematic, and many key logistic routes needed to transport food have been blocked.

Logistics assets and equipment, including available aircraft and relief cargo stockpiled at the UN Humanitarian Relief Depot in Brindisi, Italy, are being prepared for dispatch.

Two aircraft are leaving later today and early tomorrow for Colombo and the Maldives, bringing a variety of relief supplies on behalf of the Italian Government and OCHA/Norwegian Government. Additional WFP staff are also heading for the region.

Click here for more details on the Tsunami crisis

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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For more information please contact (email address:

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications
Tel. +39-06-65132602,
Mob. +39-3472582217

Gregory Barrow
Tel. +44-20-75929292
Mob. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume
Tel. +41-22-9178564
Mob. +41-79-2857304

Trevor Rowe
Tel. +1-212-9635196
Mob. +1-646-8241112

Jordan Dey
Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149
Mob. +1-202-4223383