UNHCR emergency airlift for Aceh set for takeoff
GENEVA, Jan. 1 (UNHCR) - A UN refugee agency emergency airlift operation was set to get off the ground Sunday from Denmark and Dubai, carrying 400 tonnes of urgent humanitarian aid to Indonesia's disaster-razed province of Aceh.
Final loading of the urgently needed tents, shelter materials and other relief supplies was being completed on Saturday. In the region, meanwhile, UNHCR was sending staff, vehicles and other equipment to Aceh from elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago. A 14-member emergency team of UNHCR specialists is also being deployed to Aceh as part of a joint UN response to the disaster.
The three-day, six-flight UNHCR emergency airlift operation begins Sunday from Billund airport in northern Denmark and from Dubai - where the agency also has stockpiles. It will carry 400 tonnes of shelter materials and other aid for some 100,000 people, or nearly a quarter of the estimated affected population in Aceh.
Two flights are scheduled from Dubai using DC-10s to airlift 2,000 lightweight family-sized tents from UNHCR's regional stockpile. Four flights are planned from Denmark, where UNHCR has its central warehouse in Copenhagen, using an Antonov 124 and an Ilyushin 76 to airlift 100,000 blankets, 20,000 plastic sheets, 20,000 kitchen sets and 20,000 jerry cans. The flights will land in Jakarta, where the relief supplies are scheduled to be loaded onto C-130 aircraft and ships, to be ferried to Medan in northern Sumatra.
"Getting roofs over these people's heads is a top priority," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers. "They are traumatised, living in surroundings that now can only be described as sheer hell."
TNT (Global Express, Logistics & Mail) has generously offered its fleet of vehicles in Sumatra to transport UNHCR's entire cargo of 400 tonnes of emergency aid from the northern city of Medan across the island to Banda Aceh.
The 14-person UNHCR emergency team, including logistics, supply and telecommunications experts, will support the delivery of the shelter materials and other supplies. They will set up bases for logistical support in Banda Aceh and in Medan. Refugee agency staff from other parts of Indonesia are reinforcing the operation, and vehicles are being redeployed from West Timor and Jakarta.
In Sri Lanka, where UNHCR has been working for nearly 20 years and has 100 staff and seven offices, the refugee agency is continuing to widely distribute emergency relief supplies of plastic sheeting, plastic mats, cooking sets and clothing from its warehouses in both the war-affected areas and in the south. With one of the few in-country stockpiles of relief supplies, UNHCR immediately responded to the disaster, starting emergency distribution of humanitarian aid the day after the tsunami. Basic shelter and living supplies are being delivered to some 20,000 people, filling an important stopgap until international aid is delivered.