The World Food Programme said Wednesday it would establish its first Asian relief base in Malaysia, enabling it to deliver aid within 48 hours to crisis-hit areas in the region.
"This facility will provide support to all countries in Asia and the Pacific, regardless of whether WFP has an operational presence there or not," WFP Asia director Kenro Oshidari said in a statement.
"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," he added.
Oshidari said the depot, based near Kuala Lumpur's second airport, is the fifth in the WFP's global emergency network and will provide storage, logistics support and services to UN and other humanitarian agencies.
The other WFP bases are located in Italy, for Europe and North Africa; the United Arab Emirates, which covers the Middle East and East Africa; Panama, for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Ghana, which covers West Africa.
The Malaysian government will build offices, warehouses and a training centre for the depot and contribute one million dollars annually towards the cost of the relief network.
"We are all aware that the Southeast Asian region is a region that is perennially prone to natural disasters," said Rastam Mohd Isa, secretary-general of the foreign affairs ministry.
"Therefore the opening of the (Humanitarian Response Depot) is timely and appropriate. It will serve as the focal point to respond to calamities and natural disasters that occur in this region," he said.