Conflicts Increase Emergency Food Airlifts

    08 September, 2014

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

    The World Food Program (WFP) says the increasing number of conflicts in the first half of this year has created a huge demand for food aid. The WFP says it has had to use airplanes to transport 50 times more food this year than in the first half of last year. The planes drop food into areas that are difficult to reach by land.

    The group's air service is called UNHAS, the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service. UNHAS planes carry food to people who can not be reached by roads or rivers. UNHAS has transported about 7,600 tons of food so far this year. The planes have also flown more than 1,000 tons of supplies and equipment to 21 countries for the WFP and other aid groups.

    Conflicts Increase Emergency Food Airlifts
    FILE - A US Air Force C17 Globemaster 3 transport plane takes off from Ramstein airbase, with humanitarian aid.

    More than 90 percent of the supplies were sent to just three counties -- the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria. Conflicts in these countries have displaced millions of people. The fighting has blocked many humanitarian groups from providing aid to many communities.

    Cesar Arroyo is the WFP's flight chief. He says conflict, a lack of possible roads and heavy rain has forced groups to fly food to people in three areas in the northern part of South Sudan. He says more than three million people in South Sudan are in need of food. He says about half of them can not be easily reached and need help immediately.

    "If you are asking me what would happen if we are not able to reach them, eventually as you have this issue of lack of food, lack of sanitation, the rainy season coming, the malaria, the cholera - altogether it is a disaster. It is a combination for disaster.  ...We have thousands of people working every day in trying to deliver these needs to the northern areas of South Sudan. But, the repercussions of lack of access to deliver, they would be dramatic," said Arroyo.

    Mr. Arroyo says it is about six to eight times more costly to transport food and other supplies by air than by road. He says it costs $1 billion a year to use emergency transport planes to carry food and other supplies to areas of South Sudan. He says it costs $40 million to fly such aid to Syrians in need.

    The WFP official says the situation in northern Iraq is becoming more difficult. The Sunni Islamist militant offensive there has displaced many people. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Irbil in Kurdistan from Mosul since the militant seized that city in June.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Agriculture Report. You can read more agriculture stories at our website I'm Caty Weaver.