Kathmandu, August 28

British Minister of State for International Development Desmond Swayne today toured the Humanitarian Staging Area at Tribhuvan International Airport that is managed by the United Nations World Food Programme.

The HSA was funded by the United Kingdom and allowed free flow of humanitarian aid into Nepal immediately after the April 25 earthquake.

“Having the Humanitarian Staging Area in place just one month before the earthquake may seem lucky, but it was actually the fruit of two years of planning and investment,” said Desmond Swayne. “This type of investment is fully in keeping with the international community’s commitments at the UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan, earlier this year.”

Pippa Bradford, WFP’s Country Director accompanied Swayne on his tour. “WFP was able to respond here at Kathmandu airport from day one. The fact that the HSA had been inaugurated on March 27 saved the humanitarian community at least one month’s time in mounting the massive response from around the world to the earthquake,” she said.

The visiting British delegation, which included representatives of the UK Department for International Development in Nepal, toured warehouses and watched as a DFID-donated forklift loaded corrugated iron sheets for villagers whose homes were destroyed by the quake.

WFP Officer Ratindra Khatri explained to Swayne how he rushed to activate the HSA within minutes following the quake. “In a matter of hours we had a dedicated team working from these container offices, and we could handle cargo as soon as the first aeroplanes loaded with humanitarian aid started landing. Many relief workers were sleeping inside the containers, on the floor. Within days, this whole area was filled with humanitarian aid but it was continuously moving out to where it was needed,” he said.

Ganga Prasad Neupane, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, shares an office with WFP’s Ratindra Khatri at the HSA. “The coordination between the National Emergency Operation Centre, the Ministry of Home Affairs, WFP and the Logistics Cluster has been excellent. It has allowed us to handle, store and dispatch the humanitarian cargo to the earthquake affected areas in a very efficient way,” he said.

To date, 5,741 metric tonnes of cargo have passed through the HSA, which was built thanks to a donation of US$3.2 million by DFID. “Logistics is the backbone of any humanitarian response, and nowhere is this as true as in Nepal, home to eight out of the world’s 14 highest peaks,” said Stephen Anderson, WFP Emergency Coordinator in Nepal.