LAS PALMAS: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has opened a new logistics hub at the port of La Luz, Las Palmas.
Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the WFP, was joined at the ceremony by Spain's ministers of Industry, Energy and Tourism; the secretary general for International Development Cooperation Gonzalo Robles; and a group of African ambassadors in Spain.
Funded by the Spanish government, the new 1,300 sq.mt. facility is able to respond to any emergency in West and Central Africa within 48 hours with food and non-food items including medical, hygiene and shelter supplies.
The WFP logistics network also includes humanitarian response hubs in Dubai, Italy, Ghana, Malaysia and Panama. The centres stock emergency materials including hygienic and sanitary kits, tents, mobile offices, blankets and up to 1,500 additional references needed to respond to the most vulnerable populations in crises situations.
On June 17, 2014, prior to the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, the WFP took advantage of a four hour cease-fire to distribute emergency food vouchers and shipped in food from one of its centres including wheat flour, bread and canned tuna for distribution to 85,000 people.
"The food needs in Gaza are urgent. We are seeing the effectiveness of WFP's food assistance programmes, which provides the opportunity for a rapid response and flexibility to scale-up emergency food assistance if the need arises," said WFP country director Pablo Recalde.
WFP is providing food assistance to more than 600,000 people in Palestine - 285,000 in Gaza and 318,800 in the West Bank. Together with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the two organisations reportedly provide food for 67 percent of Gaza Strip residents.
In a related move, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has announced it is joining forces with the WFP and UNICEF to step up emergency preparedness. With a £20 million investment from DFID, the WFP and UNICEF will scale up their disaster planning in 23 high-risk countries, where 17 million people are at risk, including 14 million women and children.
"The humanitarian system is already stretched to breaking point and we are facing ever more demands on the system as we deal with the effects of a changing climate, growing population, conflict and extremism," said DFID head Justine Greening.