GENEVA - The World Food Program succeeded Tuesday in airdropping food supplies for a second day to thousands of hungry people trapped in the besieged eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.
The operation went as planned, unlike the one conducted Sunday, when four palettes of food went missing. This time, WFP reports all 26 palettes landed in the designated drop zone. They then were picked up by the agency’s local partners on the ground, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher says nearly 17 tons of rice, chick peas and beans were airdropped - enough to feed 2,000 people for one month. Luescher calls this very good news. She notes this is the first time in two years the U.N. has been able to deliver humanitarian assistance to Deir Ezzor, a city under control of Islamic State militants.
She tells VOA that WFP plans to have regular airdrops of food over the next days and weeks until food is distributed to the entire population of this besieged area.
“The goal is to reach those 200,000 people that are in dire need. Many of them have sometimes been just eating grasses and other things," Luescher said. "So, that is what we are aiming for; but, you are totally right, this will take time. If we were able to get there with trucks, we could feed many more people much quicker and much faster.”
Luescher says airdrops are always a last resort. She says they are much more expensive than bringing food in via truck. She adds the amount of aid that can be dropped by air is much less than the quantities of food that can be brought in by road.
The World Food Program’s first operation into Deir Ezzor at the end of February ended in failure for technical reasons. Luescher says the agency has been working very hard for nearly two months to correct these problems.
“Basically, what we were doing as you know over the last few weeks were tryouts in Jordan of how to improve the accuracy," Luescher said. "We changed the types of the parachutes we were using. The packaging of the commodities that we dropped and also the altitude.”
While WFP is excited by the success of its airdrop operation, it says aid agencies still are unable to provide desperately needed humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of people in blockaded and hard-to-reach areas. WFP is appealing for all sieges to be lifted.