UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
CHAD-SUDAN: WFP starts humanitarian air service to eastern Chad
DAKAR, 25 Feb 2004 (IRIN) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Wednesday it had started a humanitarian air service to eastern Chad, where relief agencies are trying to assist more than 110,000 refugees from the troubled Darfur province of Western Sudan.
WFP spokesman for West Africa Ramin Rafirasme said WFP was operating a Monday to friday daily shuttle service from the Chadian capital N'Djamena to Abeche and several other towns in eastern Chad with an eight-seater Beechcraft plane.
This began operating on 14 February and was available for use free of charge by the personnel of UN agencies and other relief organisations operating in eastern Chad, he said.
The plane is due to operate for a period of 11 months at a cost of US$1.8 million.
Rafirasme said Norway had contributed $300,000 to help launch the air service, but WFP urgently required further donations to keep it going.
He explained that the two-hour flight saves a two-day 900 km road journey from N'Djamena to eastern Chad along poor dirt roads that will become totally impassible once the rainy season starts in late May or early June.
"It should save a lot of time and money," the WFP spokesman said.
If its seats are taken out, the Beechcraft can carry up to one tonne of cargo.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR also operates a plane between N'Djamena and eastern Chad, but Rafirasme said that was mainly dedicated to the UNHCR's own operations.
Rafirasme said WFP had so far received US$5.4 million in donations towards its appeal for $19.5 million to provide 21,000 tonnes of food for the Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.
The money had come from the United States, Japan, Norway and Switzerland, he added.
"We think that donors have been very sensitive to this emergency and we have encouraging indications from other donors that are not confirmed yet," Rafirasme said.
He stressed that it was urgent to pre-position the food in eastern Chad over the next three months before the onset of the rainy season made road transport impossible.
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