Friday, July 31, 2009

WFP may stop air flights without new money

Air flights to refugee camps in Chad may have to be suspended by the World Food Programme. The food aid arm of the United Nations is facing a budget shortfall that threatens the flights. The WFP blames the lack of money from world governments cutting donations due to the global recession. The WFP says that flights can be restored if they receive new donations.

From Reuters, writer Daniel Flynn describes the threat to flights.

The U.N. Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), operated by WFP, will run out money for its services in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by the end of August, the agency said. It needs $10 million to keep these services open until the end of the year.

In February, WFP was forced to close the air service in the West African countries of Ivory Coast and Niger. The service in Niger, one of the world's poorest and least developed states, is expected to resume in August after a donation from the U.N. Common Emergency Relief Fund.

In Chad, UNHAS' six aircraft carry an average of 4,000 humanitarian passengers a month to 10 destinations, where they provide assistance to 250,000 Darfur refugees and 180,000 internally displaced people in the country's east.

"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, head of WFP's aviation branch, in a statement.

Barrow said that if flights were suspended, WFP staff and other aid workers could travel by road but this would be slow due to the large distances involved and frequently dangerous due to rugged terrain and banditry.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said on Wednesday the organisation had received pledges for only $3.7 billion of the $6.7 billion it required in funding for 2009.

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