400 tonnes of UNHCR shelter, relief supplies bound for Aceh
GENEVA, Dec 31 (UNHCR) - More than 400 tonnes of shelter and other emergency supplies will soon be on their way to the tsunami-battered Indonesian province of Aceh as the UN refugee agency starts a series of airlifts from its warehouses in Copenhagen and Dubai this weekend.
The airlifts are scheduled to start on Sunday, bringing emergency assistance for an initial 100,000 people in Aceh a week after a massive earthquake and ensuing tidal waves hit the region. In all, about half a million people are estimated to be affected in Aceh, which was closest to the earthquake's epicentre.
"We will be immediately providing shelter material for about one-fifth of the estimated affected population, but this is just the start of our operation," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers. "Their homes and entire towns and villages have been obliterated by the earthquake and tidal waves, so people are in desperate need of emergency shelter. UNHCR has extensive experience in refugee emergency response, so we are going to do everything we can as part of the overall UN effort."
From Copenhagen, four flights are scheduled using an Antonov 124 and an Ilyushin 76. They will airlift 100,000 blankets, 20,000 plastic sheets, 20,000 kitchen sets and 20,000 jerry cans. From UNHCR's stockpiles in Dubai, there will be two flights on an Antonov 124 carrying 2,000 lightweight tents which can accommodate up to 10 people each.
The flights will arrive in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, from where the supplies are expected to be loaded onto C-130 aircraft and ships and then ferried into Aceh. UNHCR is planning to use ships to get shelter materials and other aid to otherwise inaccessible areas of Aceh, but details are yet to be confirmed. The agency is redeploying equipment from other parts of Indonesia, including West Timor, to meet the extraordinary needs in Aceh.
Over the next few days, an emergency team of 14 people, including logistics, telecommunications and field experts, will be deploying to Aceh to ensure the smooth delivery of relief supplies and coordinate UNHCR's activities there.
In Sri Lanka, UNHCR continues to distribute relief items from its warehouse stockpiles for 7,000 to 8,000 tsunami-affected families. Plastic sheeting, plastic mats, cooking sets and clothing are being delivered to Colombo, Hambantota, Mallativu, Trincomalee and Jaffna through the agency's seven offices and 100 staff across the country.
UNHCR, which has worked in Sri Lanka for nearly two decades, has one of the few in-country stockpiles of relief supplies in Sri Lanka. It was thus able to rapidly get humanitarian aid to some 20,000 people, filling an important stopgap until international aid began arriving.