The first United Nations World Food Programme-chartered flight carrying relief aid reached Al Hassakeh Governorate in Syria’s northeast over the weekend, an area cut off from food and humanitarian supplies for more than six months.
Road access into the north-eastern area from inside the country has been blocked by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) for more than two years, while the border crossings from the neighbouring countries have been closed since the beginning of 2016.
“These airlifts are a big step forward in the humanitarian response in Syria this year and bring a glimmer of hope to the people of Al Hassakeh Governorate who have survived without a lifeline for far too long,” said Jakob Kern, Syria Country Director for the World Food Programme (WFP), noting that the agency’s food stocks in the area were exhausted a few weeks ago.
The UN has said that airlifting is not the first choice of method to deliver aid because it is costly, but in the absence of ground access, more air operations have been planned in the recent weeks.
The WFP-chartered plane carried 40 tons of food including rice, bulgur, pulses, salt, vegetable oil and sugar. The agency also sent Plumpy’doz, a specialized nutrition product used to treat and prevent malnutrition in children.
It is estimated that 275,000 people living in many areas in Al Hasskeh Governorate are in need of humanitarian assistance but have been cut off from food and humanitarian supplies for more than six months. Priority is given to more than 75,000 people, mainly displaced families in shelters and unfinished buildings, female-headed households as well as some vulnerable Iraq refugee families in the Hwal camp.
Over the course of a month, the plane will fly at least 25 rotations between Damascus and the area to deliver over 1,000 metric tons of humanitarian cargo including food, nutrition supplies, medicines, as well as items from other humanitarian organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA).
Food distributions will be conducted by WFP’s partners on the ground in coordination with local relief committees in 35 distribution points around the governorate covering rural and urban areas.