Food drops over besieged Syrian town

On Sunday 10 April the World Food Programme (WFP) successfully carried out food drops over the city of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, which has been surrounded by IS for a year now, the organisation announced today. Pallets of food products including oil, rice and lentils were dropped from a great height, most reaching the ground safely. In total 20 tons of food was dropped. Though foreign trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen described the operation as a success, she had mixed feeling about it. ‘It’s no easy task to get food packages to land intact from a great height. The success of this mission means the inhabitants of Deir Ezzor are saved – for the time being. We’re delighted, of course, but it’s terrible that this aid is needed at all,’ she said.

At the end of February the WFP made a first attempt to deliver food to Deir Ezzor by air. That failed due to defective parachutes and incomplete meteorological data. Better parachutes and practice drops elsewhere contributed to the success of Sunday’s attempt. The World Food Programme hopes to arrange more drops over the coming period, with the aim of reaching 100,000 people each month. Food packages are distributed on the ground by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other local WFP partners.

The Netherlands is contributing a total of €2 million to the air drops and is working within the International Syria Support Group to improve aid access to all besieged areas in Syria, of which there are currently 18, according the UN. ‘We all remember the emaciated people in Madaya and Kefraya. Sadly these images are still a reality,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘Aid organisations are occasionally granted access to besieged areas, but every time it’s a struggle. Together with our partners we will continue our efforts to ensure aid workers are granted unimpeded access to all the cities and villages affected.’

The Dutch contribution to the food drops is part of the budget of €125 million that the Netherlands pledged at the Syria donor conference in London at the beginning of February. Since the start of the crisis in 2012 the Netherlands has contributed a total of €335 million in aid for the Syrian people.