New donations keep aid workers airborne in Darfur – UN

New donations keep aid workers airborne in Darfur – UN

A new infusion of $18 million in donations is enabling humanitarian workers to continue flying to remote locations in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region through October, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which runs the air operation, said today.

A new infusion of $18 million in donations is enabling humanitarian workers to continue flying to remote locations in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region through October, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which runs the air operation, said today.

A $5.5 million donation from the European Commission led the package of new financing for WFP’s Humanitarian Air Service, which also included $4.9 from the United States, $3 million from Denmark, $409,000 from Greece, and a combined contribution of $4.2 million from two UN funds – the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Common Humanitarian Fund.

“We’re very grateful for these generous donations,” said Kenro Oshidari, WFP’s Representative in Sudan.

Flying in Sudan since 2004, the Humanitarian Air Service carries passengers and cargo throughout Darfur and is also used for medical evacuations.

Without the service, “many of the 12,000 humanitarian workers in Darfur would not be able to get out to the field – and that’s especially true because carjackings have recently been on the rise,” Mr. Oshidari observed.

The volatile security situation and lack of infrastructure, combined with the rainy season – which is beginning now and will run until October – means that helicopter travel is often the only way that humanitarian workers from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can reach people affected by the Darfur conflict, according to WFP.

The agency said the air service has proved particularly useful in recent months as a result of the alarming increase in attacks on humanitarian vehicles. To date this year, the UN says that some 70 cars, belonging to either international aid organizations or African Union peacekeeping troops, have been stopped on the roads by gunmen and frequently stolen.

The number of carjackings this year is already 60 per cent of the total during 2006, when 118 vehicles were attacked.

The Darfur region of Sudan, which is roughly the size of France, has been the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters since 2003, when fighting broke out between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups. Since then, more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others have fled their homes.