(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Food aid enters northern Iraq

The World Food Programme (WFP) has confirmed the successful delivery of three trucks of assistance into northern Iraq through the Turkish border crossing point of Habur.

“This is the first delivery of humanitarian assistance to northern Iraq from Turkey since the border closed on 20 March,” agency spokeswoman, Heather Hill told IRIN in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir on Monday.

According to Hill, 77 mt of dried skimmed milk, originating from the Netherlands and destined for the agency’s nutrition programme in Northern Iraq, passed through the Habur gate on Saturday, the only border crossing along the country’s 331 km frontier with Iraq.

Asked what future deliveries were planned, the spokeswoman noted that they were now working on the logistics of delivering 1,000 mt of wheat flour as part of a larger assistance consignment.

“We hope to have that in later this week,” she said, adding: “Larger amounts will follow.”

Saturday’s delivery comes under WFP’s new emergency operation for Iraq. With a price tag of US $1.3 billion, it is the biggest in the organisation’s history and could very well become the largest humanitarian operation ever. The UN food agency made the appeal as part of a US $2.2 billion greater appeal for Iraq announced by the United Nations on Friday in New York.

But the logistics of such a massive operation are not without difficulties. UNICEF noted as of Monday that two trucks carrying some US $80,000 worth of supplies were still awaiting clearance at the Habur border crossing near the eastern Turkish frontier town of Silopi. While the border has been “officially” open for some time, truck drivers have been unwilling to make the crossing and a contractor has now agreed to take this shipment.

“We are working closely with the Turkish authorities on this and hope to have this shipment in soon,” agency spokeswoman, Angela Hawke told IRIN from the capital Ankara.

The two trucks have been at the border since Saturday. One truck is carrying 16 mt of glocomate oral syrup (for treatment of anaemia – a major problem in northern Iraq), the other has six mt of chlorine tablets and educational supplies on board.

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