UN to airlift aid from Iraq to Syria
The UN said Tuesday it would for the first time begin airlifting food and other aid items across the border from Iraq to Syria after receiving the go-ahead from both governments.
"Our colleagues on the Iraqi side, with the permission of the Syrian government and also the cooperation of the Iraqi government, (are preparing for the) airlifting of supplies for winter from Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan to Qamishli and Hassaka in north and northeast Syria," Amin Awad, who heads the UN refugee agency's Syria response, told reporters in Geneva.
The supplies were desperately needed in the hard-to-reach areas as the war-fatigued population braced for what is expected to be one of the harshest winters in a century, he said.
The airlift, which was set to begin on Thursday and last through Sunday, "will be the first from Iraq to Syria," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told AFP.
The Syrian government had authorised the cross-border passage two weeks ago and the refugee agency had initially planned to transport aid into north and northeastern Syria by truck.
"But there was a shift in the elements that controlled that road and the border and we shifted to an airlift," Awad said.
Seven flights are planned so far, and more may follow, he said, stressing though that airlifting in the aid would not be sustainable in the long run.
The UN's World Food Programme and children's agency UNICEF were also sending aid into the areas through the airlift, which is initially expected to cost around $4.0 million.
The UNHCR meanwhile plans to spend a full $195 million to help "winterise" Syria and the surrounding countries.
As part of its winterisation programme, the agency has already begun distributing things like isolation tents, plastic sheeting, warm clothing -- especially for the children and other vulnerable people, and cash for fuel, Awad said.
© 2013 AFP