Despair and anger at pace of relief efforts as disaster death toll climbs to more than 10,000
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is responding to the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria by distributing food baskets to those affected. “We started our operations,” Karine Ataya, WFP’s head of private partnerships in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), told the Khaleej Times on the sidelines of an event in Dubai. “Food is being delivered as we speak. Our teams are on the ground.”
The World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives and delivering food aid in emergencies. The scheme, which has been based in Dubai since 2001, says they are delivering supplies to affected areas.
“We have one of the largest warehouses in the UAE,” she said. “We’re ready to load a plane in four hours and get there in six hours. We usually have food at the border that goes to other countries in case there’s an emergency like this. Now, that’s what we did.”
Foreign aid from several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, has begun arriving in Turkey and Syria after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit them on Monday, February 7. The death toll from the disaster has climbed to more than 10,000, with desperation and anger growing at the pace of rescue efforts.
The way they help is constantly changing, Karin said, depending on the situation. “We believe cash is king,” she said. “It lasts longer and gives people freedom of choice. However, with this widespread devastation, we’re distributing food baskets because a lot of people don’t have a home and they still need food.”
According to Karine, they will monitor the situation in countries to see how the situation changes. “For example, when there was an explosion in Lebanon, we gave them food baskets with things that we knew they wouldn’t find in the supermarket because of the conditions there,” she said. “It was a box for a family of five, and it contained rice, lentils, tuna, etc. Once cooked, it was about 1,300 calories per person. So each of our food baskets was carefully researched and planned. Later When things started to stabilize, we switched to giving them cash.”
The WFP may also take a similar approach in Turkey and Syria.
Karine spoke at the Tech 4 good hackathon organized by food delivery company Talabat to brainstorm how best to make it easier for the community to donate to charity.
“The Mena region is unique in that people here are willing to give,” said Yi-Wei Ang, chief product officer at talabat. “The region plays a huge role in food donations around the world. Every year, we see so many meals being donated , and so much money was donated.”
Karin agreed. “The idea of food is very cultural to us,” she said. “In the Middle East, people share food generously. Getting more people involved is what we do best.”
Those wishing to donate to WFP’s work in Turkey and Syria can do so on the agency’s website.