International Rescue Committee's Airdrops of Food To Begin Thursday; Leaflet Drop Set for Wednesday
Reynold Levy, president of the refugee relief and resettlement agency, said two Antonov 26 cargo planes will depart from the airport at Pescara, Italy, at 4 a.m. Thursday and fly in tandem to the target locations. The round-trip flight is expected to take about four hours. At about the same time on Wednesday, June 2, he said, one plane will drop multi-lingual leaflets over the target areas to alert people on the ground.
In letters sent by fax Sunday, the IRC notified the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in both New York and Belgrade of the plans for the leaflet and food drops. In addition, at the IRC’s request, a copy was forwarded to the government in Belgrade by the Swiss Embassy there.
On Friday, after the IRC announced its plans for the airdrops, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "The United Nations welcomes any initiative which may help to relieve the urgent needs of displaced placed persons in Kosovo."
The U.N. statement also said, "The World Food Programme (WFP) has agreed to observe the inspection by Societe Generale de Surveillance, a Swiss firm, of the loading of the aircraft for these airdrops, to certify that only food supplies for humanitarian purposes are loaded." [Note to editors: full text of UN press release SG/SM 7014 can be found on the UN’s Web site at .]
The news media will be welcome to witness and photograph the cargo-loading operation, the inspection and the flight takeoffs.
Last Friday, Barbara Smith, the IRC’s vice president for overseas operations, hand-delivered a letter to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Mission to the U.N. outlining in detail the IRC’s intentions. She also met with officials at the Mission and outlined plans for airdrops.
Ms. Smith said the IRC has received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help pay for the cost of managing the flights.
Skylink Air and Logistics of Washington, D.C., an aviation and transportation company based in Washington, D.C., has been awarded a contract to provide the planes and crews for the flights. The firm has logged 150,000 hours of flight time flying missions for U.N. agencies, government agencies in Europe and North America and a variety of corporate clients.