UN humanitarian airlift in Sudan gets temporary reprieve
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that an ongoing humanitarian airlift for Sudan, which has been threatened with closure for lack of funds, has been given a temporary reprieve by new donations.
WFP said the airlift, which ferries some 14,000 aid workers around Sudan, including Darfur and the south, will be able to continue until mid-June after the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) contributed $2 million, and private donations from Japan totalled just under $500,000.
The air service has faced a funding crisis this year. On its $77 million budget for 2008, the air service still needs $51 million to fly from mid-June onwards. The humanitarian community has warned that if the air service is grounded, relief operations in Darfur and post-conflict recovery operations in southern Sudan would grind to a halt.
The airlift operates 18 fixed wing aircraft in Sudan, plus six helicopters dedicated to transporting about 3,000 aid workers per month to the most difficult-to-reach areas of Darfur – where some of the most vulnerable conflict-affected people wait for help.
WFP says the air service is more important than ever because insecurity in recent months throughout Darfur has made road travel extremely dangerous. So far this year, 64 WFP contract trucks have been hijacked, with 41 still missing and 28 drivers are unaccounted for. Two WFP contract drivers have been killed in Darfur this year while three other drivers and one assistant were killed in two separate incidents in southern Sudan.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports a total of 106 hijackings of humanitarian vehicles (including the WFP-contracted vehicles), 13 attacks on humanitarian convoys and 51 armed assaults on humanitarian and UN compounds in Darfur since the start of 2008. Seven humanitarian staff have been killed in Darfur this year (including the two WFP contract drivers).
There are almost 14,000 humanitarian workers currently in Darfur.