Facilitation along Turkey's 331-km border with Iraq is improving, further enhancing the importance of what could prove a major humanitarian corridor to northern Iraq, aid agencies told IRIN on Friday. The Habur crossing is seen as a key entry point for much-needed relief items.
"Our trucks are moving more easily," Heather Hill, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme (WFP), told IRIN from the southeastern Turkish town of Silopi, 15 km west of the frontier. "In terms of clearance, things are generally moving much smoother." In this context, she went on to praise the efforts of WFP staff, local transporters and the Turkish authorities.
Since its first convoy passed the border on 29 March, the food agency had successfully delivered 2,500 mt of wheat flour, enough to feed 175,000 people for one month, she said. "We have trucks on the road. Loading and shipping is going on constantly."
Of the deliveries made thus far, 1,000 mt has been received by the city of Dahuk as its full quota. Erbil has also received 1,000 mt, this being half its full quota, with the remainder due to reach it by the end of this week. Meanwhile, trucks are heading to the city of Sulaymaniyah carrying an initial consignment of a total quota of 3,000 mt.
"We hope by the end of the week to have completed the first consignment of [a total of] 6,000 mt," Hill said.
But the successful delivery of assistance is not limited to WFP. Since its first convoy passed the Turkish border earlier this month, almost 70 UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) trucks have passed into Iraq, nearly all of them into the south of the country. "Seven trucks have passed through the north, but we are hoping for five more on Friday," a UNICEF spokesman, Michael Bociurkiv, told IRIN from Silopi.
However, the northern areas are not being ignored. UNICEF was eager to return to its pre-war rate of 50 trucks per week, Bociurkiv said, noting that initially that rate might be exceeded, inasmuch as the equivalent of 150 truckloads of goods were currently warehoused at the southeastern Turkish port of Mersin, and another US $10 million-plus worth of goods en route for Mersin.
"We will try to send whatever the border can handle here in terms of customs at the Habur gate," he said. "We're going to try to avoid creating a log jam, " he added, emphasising the need for a coordinated and effective logistics operation.
While most assistance is primarily destined to reach Dahuk and points beyond, following the fall of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Thursday, UNICEF is also keen to begin sending goods to that city, as well as the northern city of Mosul, as soon as possible. "For those areas, it will be largely water and sanitation material," Bociurkiv said.
Meanwhile, in the Turkish capital, Ankara, UN and government officials are continuing discussions on ways of further facilitating cross-border operations such as UNICEF's. "The government's commitment to facilitate the movement of humanitarian consignments has translated into tangible results," Francois Desruisseaux, the head of the UN's Joint Logistics Centre, (UNJLC) said. "Over the past 10 days, more than 130 UN truck consignments have successfully passed the border, bringing urgently needed supplies to Iraq."
Additionally, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has noted that entry of the UN security assessment teams into Iraq from the Habur border crossing and their re-entry into Turkey were now possible. The teams must provide details about identity, travel dates and itinerary as well as a 72-hour pre-notification to the MFA Crisis Management Centre.