The World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday praised the government of Iran for its significant contribution in providing a major humanitarian aid corridor into Afghanistan.
"The use of the highly cost-effective Iran corridor and the excellent cooperation WFP received from the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran played a vital role in delivering life-saving food into Afghanistan on time to avert famine," the WFP deputy director for the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Central Asia, Mohamed Diab, told IRIN from the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
The UN food agency recognised early on the strategic importance of Iran's sea and land entry points for the transport of emergency humanitarian food relief into Afghanistan. Already in 2000, WFP had established a logistics corridor through Iran, and strengthened its country office's logistical capacity to ensure an efficient operation. While the capability to transport greater quantities was limited due to prevailing political and security conditions inside Afghanistan, by the end of that year, over 18,000 mt of life-saving food was sent into eastern and northeastern parts of the country.
However, it was not until after the events of 11 September and Afghanistan subsequently becoming fully accessible that the establishment of the Iran corridor really paid off. With the Pakistan corridor temporarily closed to food consignments at the time, WFP increasingly looked to neighbouring countries, including Iran, in the effort to provide food aid to save the lives of millions of Afghans. In this it was not disappointed.
According to Diab, the Iranian government extended all necessary facilities to ensure that humanitarian aid was expeditiously moved into Afghanistan. In addition to rail and trucking networks, Tehran opened the three main southern Iranian ports during the emergency, these being Bandar-e Abbas, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni and Chahbahar.
As a result, WFP was able to transport urgently needed food commodities from the Iranian border crossing at Sarakhs in the northeastern Khorasan Province to Turkmenistan and down into Afghanistan, and from the border crossing at Dogharun to the western Afghan city of Herat through the border town of Eslam Qaleh. To date, over 113,000 mt of food has been transported through Iran.
The food agency was also able to purchase commodities such as vegetable oil and pulses within Iran. Tehran extended special facilities to the UN to expedite the supply of wheat, even allowing it to borrow from national stocks through the Iranian State Organisation for Grains.
Moreover, as a further commitment to the humanitarian mission of WFP, the government facilitated for the first time the movement of US-donated wheat to Afghanistan through its territories.
As for the immediate future, WFP would maintain its logistical capabilities in Iran and continue to use this corridor when required to ensure the timely delivery of food aid into Afghanistan, Diab said.