United Nations, Nov 20: The United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) has said it is teaming up with Bangladesh's Air Force to airdrop emergency food supplies to hundreds of thousands of people stranded after the cyclone 'Sidr' struck the country last week.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed as a result of the deadly cyclone which hit Bangladesh last Thursday. In addition, thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, large tracts of cropland have been wiped out and millions of people have been evacuated who now depend on aid for basic necessities.
The WFP yesterday said in a statement that it has, along with the country's Air Force, begun using helicopters to airdrop high-energy biscuits, which are considered crucial when people lack the means to prepare food.
So far, the WFP has delivered biscuits to more than 650,000 people in the worst hit areas by land, air and boat.
''WFP was able to deliver food within hours of the cyclone hitting Bangladesh, because we pre-positioned stocks ahead of the first storm warnings,'' WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.
In the next few days, the WFP plans to distribute 2,000 tonnes of biscuits or enough to feed hundreds of thousands of the country's poorest for 15 days. It also intends to start distributing rice to people returning to their homes and villages.
Meanwhile, a 12-person UN assessment team from the WFP, the UN Development Programme, the UN Children's Fund and the World Health Organisation is visiting some of the worst affected districts to assess the damage and the needs of the most vulnerable.
The deadly disaster has prompted concern from a number of senior UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who voiced his concern at the death and devastation left in the wake of Cyclone Sidr.
Echoing Mr Ban's concern was President of the General Assembly Srgjan Kerim who expressed the 192-member body's deepest sympathy to the people and Government of Bangladesh on the recent tragedy.
Mr Kerim said he hoped the international community would show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to assist those affected.
The UN has announced that it will make available several million dollars from its Central Emergency Response Fund, established to expedite aid operations following disasters.