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WFP says funding shortage to affect aid flights in Africa
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21:40, July 31, 2009

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The humanitarian air service run by the UN World Food Program is struggling to keep its planes flying in parts of Africa due to a dramatic shortage of funds.

The flights carry aid workers to remote locations where they provide vital assistance for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have been driven from their homes by conflict.

But WFP said in a statement on Friday that the UNHAS air service to Chad will run out of funds by Aug. 15, while the UNHAS service in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will run out of funds by Aug. 30.

"We fly thousands of aid workers to dangerous and remote locations all over the world. How will they reach people if they have no planes? How will WFP reach the hungry? How will doctors reach their patients? How will people have clean water if the engineers who help to build wells can't get there?" asked Pierre Carrasse, the chief of WFP's Aviation Branch.

The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which is operated by WFP, carries aid workers to emergency operations where they provide support and assistance to populations affected by war and natural disasters.

In Chad, a monthly average of 4,000 humanitarian passengers fly on 6 UNHAS aircraft to reach 10 destinations, where they provide assistance to 250,000 Darfurian refugees and 180,000 internally displaced people in the East of the country.

The Chad service needs 6.7 million U.S. dollars to keep flying to the end of the year. If no new funds arrive by August 15, UNHAS will be forced to start cutting back the number of aircraft and flights, and could eventually face closure.

The West Africa Service, comprising Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, needs just 3.3 million dollars to keep flying to the end of the year.

In February, UNHAS was forced to close its service in Cote d'Ivoire due to lack of funds.

During the same month, the service to Niger was also cut, but thanks to a recent donation from the UN Common Emergency Relief Fund, the Niger service may resume in August.

UNHAS operates in Chad, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, West Africa and Afghanistan, with a 2009 budget of 160 million U.S. dollars.

So far this year, the service has received less than 40 million U.S. dollars in contributions.

Source: Xinhua



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