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WFP: 250,000 Flood Victims in Pakistan Need Food

Officials with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) now say at least one-quarter of a million flood victims in Pakistan are in need of food aid. Aid agencies are ramping up their humanitarian operations for the estimated four million people affected by the country's worst flooding in more than 80 years.

Since torrential rains swept through northwest Pakistan about a week ago, the World Food Program says it has managed to deliver food rations for one month to 237,000 people in the most difficult to reach areas.

The agency launched a helicopter relief operation on Thursday aimed at reaching thousands of hungry and desperate people in isolated communities across the Swat Valley.

Program spokeswoman, Emilia Casella, says the Pakistan government provided six helicopters. This enabled aid workers to transport food to 80,000 people in these hard to reach places.

"Unfortunately, the very bad weather in the area today has meant that the flights this morning have been grounded," said Casella. "So, we do not know if they will be able to go out today at all to do those distributions by helicopter, which is really unfortunate. And, that kind of gives you an idea of this evolving situation. Certainly it is a situation that is changing hour by hour in fact. We have fielded 65 rapid assessment teams, so far. They have been out there reporting back on conditions in communities all over."

And the reported conditions are little short of catastrophic. Aid agencies say roads are cut and bridges washed away. The groups say around 250,000 thousand houses have been damaged or destroyed according to government estimates. Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be homeless.

Throughout the past week, the World Food Program has on several occasions revised upwards its estimate of the number of people in need of food assistance.

WFP spokeswoman Casella says latest assessments indicate 2.5 million people now will need food assistance for at least three months. She notes it is likely this figure will change again.

"It is a rolling emergency," she added. "This is something that is not over. The rains are continuing and, unfortunately, that means that the people are… the people who are already affected are being further affected, and the people who maybe were not affected yet are now at risk of being affected by damage to their homes, damage to their crops and their businesses."

The World Food Program figures it will cost $63 million to maintain its humanitarian operation in flood-stricken Pakistan during the next few months.