Air drops provide lifeline in Syria’s Deir Ezzor

A measure of last resort

The World Food Programme has completed its 100th airdrop of food to families in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. Air drops are always a last resort but with access roads heavily damaged and armed groups present in the area, they have become the only option in delivering desperately needed food to the city.

The journey of WFP’s airdrops begins in Amman, Jordan, where its food and inter-agency humanitarian assistance are prepared to be flown into Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria.

WFP cargo consists of vegetable oil, lentils, rice, beans, sugar and salt. This is part of a plan to provide assistance to an estimated 110,000 people trapped inside the city.

Food and other supplies are loaded in Jordan, ready to be flown into Deir Azzor. Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

WFP began airdrops into Deir Ezzor in April. Where possible, access by road is preferred as it is safer and much less costly than delivering assistance by air, but this is not an option in Deir Ezzor.

Airdrops are not possible in Aleppo and other besieged cities or towns in built-up areas. This is because we need a large, safe drop zone, within which cargo can be released and then collected and distributed by a team on the ground.

A WFP aircraft carrying humanitarian cargo for Syria gets ready for take-off in Amman, Jordan. Photo: WFP/Shada Mogharaby

The cargo for Deir Ezzor is dropped into a zone on the outskirts of the city and is picked up by WFP’s partner on the ground, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). It is then taken to a distribution point.

WFP has carried out airdrops for years in other war-torn countries such as South Sudan, though not from such a high altitude given the risk of harming people on the ground. In Deir Ezzor, the combination of a clearing area and partner staff on the ground minimizes this risk.

Supplies are dropped from a height of 5,000 metres. Photo: WFP/Photolibrary

SARC is one of WFP’s biggest local partners in Syria.

As of 22 August, WFP had dispatched 1,806 metric tons of both WFP food and supplies on behalf of other humanitarian actors through these airdrops. The WFP food is enough to provide three monthly rations to all 110,000 people in the city.

A worker from WFP’s partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, prepares to collect the latest cargo. Photo: SARC

SARC aid workers load the WFP food and other humanitarian items onto a truck, to be taken to Deir Ezzor for distribution.

The cargo includes High-Energy Biscuits and water-purification tablets provided by UNICEF, as well as tomato paste, ghee and other items on behalf of partner humanitarian organizations.

Financial assistance from the governments of Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States makes these airdrops possible.

Workers gather food and other supplies, which will be taken to Deir Ezzor for distribution. Photo: SARC

The distribution of WFP food has led to a dramatic decrease in food prices in Deir Ezzor city. Between January and June 2016, the price of staple food items in the city decreased by 52.7 percent.

Rice was priced at SYP 1,250 per kg in June, compared to SYP 4,000 in April 2016 — a 220 percent drop in price.

Deir Ezzor residents line up to receive WFP food assistance at a distribution point inside the city. Photo: SARC

Each month across Syria, WFP reaches more than 4 million people in desperate need. WFP calls for unconditional, unimpeded and continuous access to all people in need across Syria, including those in besieged locations.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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