A major convoy of urgently needed food supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) made its way to Iraq on Friday, the second delivery from the agency in less than a week.
"We are very pleased to be making this first major shipment of humanitarian aid into Northern Iraq. But we see it only as the first step in a long and concerted effort to bring assistance to the Iraqi people," Heather Hill, a spokeswoman for the food agency told IRIN in the eastern Turkish border town of Silopi, 15 km from the Iraqi border.
The first 575 mt of wheat flour, part of an initial consignment of 1,000 mt, crossed the Turkish border Friday afternoon, destined for the WFP warehouse in Dohuk, 65 km inside Iraq.
The 23 trucks, each carrying 25 mt of food assistance, made the 550 km journey from WFP's warehouse in the eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep to the Habur gate, the only border crossing along the two countries' 331 km shared frontier.
"The other trucks are being loaded today to fill up the remaining 425 mt of food assistance to go through," Hill explained, adding that this convoy was expected to reach the Habur gate border crossing Saturday.
Over the next week, WFP will be sending an additional 2,000 mt to Erbil, as well as 3,000 mt to Suleimaniyah. "In making these initial deliveries, we are establishing the routes to be taken to ensure a steady flow of different commodities, primarily wheat flour," the spokeswoman added.
The convoy comes exactly one week after the world food agency appealed for US $1.3 billion to fund a massive food aid operation in response to the Iraq crisis, the largest in the organisation's history from its headquarters in Rome. That request, part of the overall US $2.2 billion appeal for all humanitarian assistance for Iraq in the coming six months, was launched simultaneously by the United Nations in New York.
Friday's delivery follows the successful delivery of three trucks of powder milk, a total of 77 mt, to Dohuk on 29 March from the agency.