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UN forced to cut back air service in Sudan amid lack of funding
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13:02, June 11, 2008

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced Tuesday it will have to cut back on its air service in Sudan due to lack of funds.

The Humanitarian Air Service (HAS), run by the WFP on behalf of the entire humanitarian community in Sudan, needs 20 million U.S. dollars by June 15 to avoid cuts and maintain full service through the coming months, said the WFP.

The total shortfall is 48 million dollars on the 77-million-dollar budget for this year, it said, adding that it will curtail the ability of 14,000 UN aid workers to travel to Darfur and other parts of the strife-torn nation.

The agency has been facing the possible closure of the air service since March because of lack of funding, said WFP Representative in Sudan, Kenro Oshidari.

"The measures announced today aimed to keep vital services going for longer, while we wait for new funding to be confirmed," he said.

WFP-HAS will have to cut one helicopter immediately, bringing the fleet down to five and two fixed-wing aircraft on June 19, in addition to raising fees for helicopter flights in Darfur starting on July 1.

Some 3,000 humanitarian workers use WFP helicopters each month to reach remote parts of Darfur, where travel by road is impossible due to insecurity, banditry or poor road conditions.

"Undoubtedly, this is a blow to the humanitarian effort in Sudan. The impact will be felt by vulnerable people who depend on the international community for crucial services," Oshidari said.


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