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UN agency launches first food airlift from Tajikistan into Afghanistan

UN agency launches first food airlift from Tajikistan into Afghanistan

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched its first air operation from Tajikistan into Afghanistan in an effort to bring urgently needed aid to more than 274,000 desperately hungry people in remote locations across the northeastern part of the country.

WFP aircraft are expected to fly four flights per day for the next few weeks until a total of 2,000 tonnes has been dispatched to Faizabad, the agency said. The food will then be put on trucks and taken to remote areas across northeastern Afghanistan.

"Time is ticking, winter has started, and we need to get this food as quickly as possible into the less accessible regions of northeastern Afghanistan," Burkard Oberle, WFP Afghanistan Country Director, said in a statement released in Islamabad. "The air bridge will enable us to get food rapidly and effectively into this desperate region ahead of the winter snows."

Besides aircraft, WFP is also using a fleet of heavy-duty trucks contracted from the Russian Government in an operation supported by the United Kingdom. Some of these trucks are fitted with snow-clearing equipment to keep the roads open as long as possible.

The six worst affected districts, which WFP is trying to reach before winter snows sever road links, are Ragh, Darwaz, Shignan, Khwahan, Sharibuzurg and Yaftal.

In addition, WFP is trying to reach an additional 239,000 people who live in Kalafgan, Teshkan, Drayem, Rustaq and Khos Freng. The situation in these districts is not as critical as they remain accessible throughout winter.

The agency said it needs to move 9,000 tonnes of wheat flour - a four-month ration - into Faizabad from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to ensure enough food reaches people before winter isolates communities.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing to send emergency health supplies to Spin Boldak, in the south, following concerns that displaced people living in three camps in that area are vulnerable to respiratory diseases, diarrhoea, tuberculosis and malnutrition, a spokesperson for the agency said today.

WHO also warned about the staggering health crisis facing Afghan women, with 45 women dying each day of pregnancy-related causes, the second highest rate in the world. "More than 90 per cent of deliveries take place at home, most are simply supported by unskilled birth attendants," said spokesperson Lori Haieber Girardet.