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UN to build regional aid hub

Cambodia to benefit from facility in Malaysia for disaster relief

THE World Food Programme has set in motion plans to establish a facility in Malaysia designed to allow for quicker distribution of emergency supplies following natural disasters and other crises throughout the region, the organisation said in a statement.

The UN Humanitarian Response Depot – to be based at a Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang, Malaysia, north of Kuala Lumpur – will be the fifth of its kind and the first in Asia.

In 2003, Cambodia was selected as the location for the WFP’s Asian Emergency Response Facility. The main difference between that facility, originally housed about 6 kilometres outside of Phnom Penh, and the new response depot is that the latter will be accessible to a range of UN agencies, NGOs and relief organisations.

Last year, Typhoon Ketsana caused around US$140 million in damage in Cambodia, according to data from the National Committee for Disaster Management. As of January, when the NCDM presented annual data on natural disasters in 2009, some 48,787 families were still struggling with food shortages.

The response depots – also located in Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Panama and Ghana – are designed to deliver relief supplies and stock items including first-aid kits, generators, water-purification units, tents, satellite phones and high-energy biscuits within 48 hours of a disaster, according to the WFP release.

Referring to the facility to be based in Malaysia, Kenro Oshidari, WFP regional director for Asia, said: “WFP already has a long-term and substantial commitment to fighting hunger and saving lives and livelihoods in Asia, but today we mark a new chapter of support to its people.

“This facility will provide support to all countries in Asia and the Pacific, regardless of whether WFP has an operational presence there or not. Now all of Asia and the Pacific will be covered.”

The Malaysian government has agreed to contribute US$1 million annually towards operating costs for the new facility and to pay for its construction, which is expected to be completed in six to 12 months, though temporary facilities will be up and running in the meantime.

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