Bad weather, flight path led to airdrop failure: UN food agency chief

OTTAWA -- Bad weather and a tricky flight path are factors that led to a failed United Nations air drop of humanitarian aid in Syria -- the international organization’s first such attempt inside the war-torn country.

See Full Article

World Food Program chief Ertharin Cousin, whose agency co-ordinates logistics for the UN, took full responsibility for the botched air operation in an interview with CTV News on Thursday.

She said that delivering by air is fraught with challenges.

“One thing we’ve said about air drops from the very beginning is that air drops are a last resort when there is no other way of bringing food to other people.”

Twenty-one pallets, each containing 1 metric ton of aid, were destined for the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour, besieged by Islamic State extremists. Ten of those pallets are unaccounted for, while the rest are badly damaged or did not fall in the target area. The materials could have helped roughly 200,000 trapped civilians the World Food Program has not accessed since 2014.

“What we are doing now is that we are looking at the film from the air drops of what went wrong,” Cousin said. “We have been given permission from Jordan to actually practice with the challenging meteorological situation that winter provides.”

Those test runs will determine whether the WFP can overcome the challenges to attempt another air drop, but Cousin is optimistic. “We we’ll try again… They need us to get this right and we will.”

Another challenge Cousin is facing when it comes to feeding the world’s hungry is climate change, which is why her agency is exploring forecast-based financing. “That means if meteorological data forecast a drought … we can go in with different seeds. So instead of planting maize, you plant cowpeas, which can grow with erratic rains.”

Cousin believes a greater emphasis on weather models can help target at-risk populations before climate-based disasters strike, thereby saving lives and money. It’s a method she says makes vulnerable populations “more resilient, making them less in need of assistance from the international community, giving them the ability to continue to feed their own families.

Cousin’s two-day visit to Ottawa included a meeting with International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. And even though Canada has failed to meet the foreign aid target set out by the United Nations, Cousin praised Canada.

“Canadian people are one of the most generous donors we have at WFP. And in fact Canada has ranked 3rd, and never less than 4th, in donors to WFP,” she said.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Inuit girls and women in Nunavik preyed upon by some workers from the south, police say

    Canada News CBC News
    Almost every day, police in Nunavik, the Inuit territory in Quebec's far north, hand out rape kits to victims who request them. The majority of the alleged aggressors are Inuit, says Michel Martin, the former chief of the Kativik regional police force. Source
  • Republican concedes Pennsylvania U.S. House race to Democrat amid anti-Trump surge

    World News CBC News
    Republican Rick Saccone conceded defeat to Democrat Conor Lamb on Wednesday night in a closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, more than a week after the end of a remarkable race that has shaken Republican confidence ahead of the November midterm elections. Source
  • White House issues threat over leaked Trump briefing papers

    World News CTV News
    U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) Source
  • RCMP get their man after chase with snowmobiles, helicopter

    Canada News CTV News
    VULCAN, Alta. -- RCMP in southern Alberta have arrested a suspected thief following a chase that included a helicopter, snowmobiles, a police dog team and the suspect's Labrador retriever. Mounties say an officer responded to reports of a stolen snowmobile and stopped a truck towing the machine on a highway. Source
  • Exhibit confronts Canada's rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis in 1939

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A new exhibition at the Canadian War Museum is shedding light on a dark chapter in Canada’s history, when more than 900 Jews aboard the St. Louis who were escaping Nazi Germany were rejected by Ottawa, and forced back to Europe, where 254 passengers were killed in death camps. Source
  • Former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverley McLachlin to be judge in Hong Kong

    World News CBC News
    Hong Kong's top court has appointed former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin to sit as a non-permanent common-law judge on the Court of Final Appeal. McLachlin, who recently retired from Canada's Supreme Court, will take up her new role once her appointment is endorsed by the Legislative Council, an elected body in Hong Kong that functions as a parliament or legislature. Source
  • 'This Wild West era's got to end': Facebook breach energizes UK lawmakers

    World News CBC News
    It is delicious irony that to uncover some of our worst fears about online data privacy and misinformation, it took old-fashioned journalists — the venerated British press — and an equally old-school method of whistleblowing. It's not for others' lack of trying. Source
  • Peru's president offers resignation amid political turmoil

    World News CBC News
    Embattled Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offered his resignation Wednesday ahead of an impeachment vote, seeking to put an end to a fast-moving political drama playing out just three weeks before the Andean nation is set to host U.S. Source
  • Icy waterfall rescue nets man on date a bravery medal, couple now engaged

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- A hiking date for a Vancouver Island couple turned into a life-saving rescue that earned Janson Chapman a bravery medal and now a lifetime partner. Chapman, a golf course greens keeper from Colwood, was one of 46 people honoured today with medals of service by Gov. Source
  • Montreal man accused in U.S. airport stabbing faces new terrorism charge

    Canada News CTV News
    FLINT, Mich. -- U.S. federal prosecutors have added a terrorism charge to the case of a Montreal man who is accused of stabbing a police officer at a Michigan airport in June. Amor Ftouhi, a native of Tunisia, has been charged with stabbing an officer in the neck at Flint's Bishop International Airport while yelling "Allahu Akbar," the Arabic phrase for "God is great. Source