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Vital food assistance to Philippines

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is rapidly expanding its relief operation in the Philippines to provide vital food assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by severe flooding in the aftermath of last Saturday’s devastating tropical storm. WFP is aiming to provide food to 1 million flood-affected people in October which is expected to be the peak period for WFP's three-month emergency response.

“This is a catastrophe for the people of the Philippines and our hearts go out to them. Thousands of homes have been flooded, and people have been trudging through filthy storm water in search of loved ones and belongings,” said WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. “We are supporting the Philippines Government relief response to ensure that food and other vital supplies reach the growing numbers of people, many of whom have lost almost everything in this disaster.”

An estimated 2.5 million people have been affected by the floods, caused by torrential rains, including more than one million people who have been forced to flee their flooded homes and seek shelter and refuge at evacuation centres or with host families. The Philippines Government has shifted its response from emergency rescue and evacuation to a massive relief operation in the flood-affected areas, and has requested international assistance.

WFP has already begun moving more than 740 metric tons of rice which will be distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the worst -affected areas, including the capital city of Manila. The agency is also gearing up to substantially expand deliveries, with a special focus on displaced families and the most vulnerable.

An outpouring of generosity to assist flood-affected people is gathering pace and WFP is doing its part to help facilitate a coordinated relief response. In support of the Philippines Government, WFP will strengthen government logistics capacity by deploying helicopters and boats - to allow other humanitarian agencies to access those in hard-to-reach areas, and to deliver vital supplies as rapidly as possible. The helicopters will also allow for vulnerable populations in low-lying areas to be relocated and for comprehensive assessments of infrastructure and overall damage to take place. Additionally, WFP will provide an emergency telecommunications system to allow humanitarian workers to better coordinate relief efforts.

Sheeran said she hopes donors will step in with contributions to allow WFP and other humanitarian agencies to support the Government relief effort at this time of critical need.

At the request of the Philippines Government, the UN is coordinating a flash appeal which aims to be issued on Friday.

Since 2006, WFP has been supporting conflict-affected populations in the Southern Philippines (Mindanao), but also supports large-scale natural disaster response on a case-by-case basis.

by S. C.
04 october 2009, World News > Asia