Hollywood humanitarians assist critical UN air operations in Darfur
A few days after the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned its air transports for aid workers in war-ravaged Darfur could be grounded for lack of funds, an organization of Hollywood celebrities has provided the first donation of the year to keep it running.
WFP’s Humanitarian Air Service (WFP-HAS) has received $500,000 from Not On Our Watch, the humanitarian organization founded by actors George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, producer Jerry Weintraub and civil rights lawyer David Pressman, the agency said today.
WFP-HAS announced earlier this week that by the end of March it would be
forced to ground the helicopters and aeroplanes that carry 8,000 relief workers, along with supplies, to remote parts of the vast region because no confirmed donations had arrived toward its $77 million budget this year.
Most passengers using the service, which began operations in 2004, are staff members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance in health care, water and sanitation or food relief.
"Having seen first hand the epic humanitarian challenge in Darfur, George
Clooney and his colleagues know the life saving power of the Humanitarian
Air Service,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.
“This contribution will make a difference to the millions of vulnerable women and
children trapped there, and we hope it will inspire other donations,” she added.
In 2007, Not On Our Watch granted $1 million dollars to the WFP-HAS, whose monthly budget to run its 24 aircraft throughout North and South Sudan, including Darfur, runs to $6.2 million.
“We are proud to help ensure the survival of this lifesaving program and strongly encourage others to do the same,” said UN Messenger of Peace and award-winning actor George Clooney, who recently returned from a visit to Darfur with peacekeeping officials.
“Protection of these victims should not fall solely in the hands of charitable organizations,” he added. “Governments have a responsibility to help those who cannot defend themselves.”