BANDA ACEH - The United Nations World Food Programme is working on two fronts in the Indonesia earthquake crisis in order to prevent a single person from going hungry because of the massive natural disasters, a senior WFP official said here today.
Just over two weeks after the second eruption off the coast of Sumatra, WFP is using three specialized ships to deliver large quantities of food to the islands of Nias and Simeulue, where an estimated 200,000 people need food aid, said Jean-Jacques Graisse, WFP's Senior Deputy Executive-Director. So far, WFP has dispatched nearly 1,000 tons of food to the islands.
At the same time, the UNfood aid agency is working on building its food buffer stocks in the region in order to handle the ongoing operation to assist nearly 600,000 tsunami victims in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, Graisse said.
"We believe that we can carry out the two streams of food assistance in this disaster if we work hard at keeping our food pipeline flowing smoothly," said Graisse, who is ending today a four-day visit to Indonesia. "Nobody in the region will have to go hungry because of this second disaster."
Graisse, accompanied by WFP staff, made a visit to Nias Island, which suffered the worst of the damage inflicted by the second earthquake, and Meulaboh, a community on the west coast of Aceh province which was badly hit by the 26 December tsunami, prior to his arrival in Banda Aceh.
"We are confident we can meet the challenges of this second crisis layered on top of the first," Graisse said. "We are ramping up our ocean-going transport by acquiring two more landing craft - for a fleet of five such vessels -- to deliver food aid to the islands. These boats are a crucial part of our ability to meet the needs on Nias and Simeulue because they can carry the large volumes of food required in an efficient and cost-effective manner."
Graisse also noted that WFP's seven helicopters and two Twin Otter planes were used in the initial stages of the disaster to ferry injured people and search-and-rescue teams off and onto the island of Nias, but are now available to support WFP's dual operations to deliver food.
However, Graisse emphasized: "The new needs carry implications for our whole operation. We have to assess now how we can continue to move forward quickly with the tsunami programmes. Moreover,the earthquake will lead to a massive rebuilding effort after the emergency needs have been met, just as in the tsunami crisis."
During his visit to Indonesia, Graisse met with H.E. Dr. M.Jusuf Kalla, Vice-President of the Republic of Indonesia; H.E. Azwar Abubakar, the Acting Governor of Aceh Province; and H.E. TRizal Nurdin, Governor of North Sumatra. They discussed the areas of cooperation for humanitarian aid now and in the future.
"We are very pleased to have the support and cooperation of the Government of Indonesia and the provincial authorities with whom we are working in this crisis," Graisse said. "Their partnership has been critical to our ability to offer assistance to the survivors of these catastrophic events."
WFP was on the scene within hours to get food and other humanitarian aid flowing to the Indonesian islands devastated by the 28 March earthquake.WFP was already giving food to 22,000 people on Simeulue Island about 2,000 people on Nias because of the tsunami.
Graisse emphasized that WFP had succeeded in averting starvation and widespread malnutrition in the wake of the tsunami. "But we can't afford to be complacent. This latest earthquake has shown how vulnerable people in this region are," Graisse said."We're working to help survivors rebuild their homes, communities and livelihoods."
In this transition phase of the tsunami effort, general food distribution is giving way to targeted assistance for 350,000 primary school children, 55,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers and 130,000 children under five years of age. These are the groups of people who most need nutritious food at this very crucial stage of their lives.
WFP will also help restore the livelihoods of Indonesian communities affected by the tsunami through food-for-work, and is talking with the Indonesian Government, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other agencies on other possible partnerships.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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