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Funding shortfall forces UN to cut back air service for aid workers in Sudan

10 June 2008 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it will have to cut back on its air service in Sudan due to lack of funds, curtailing the ability of 14,000 aid workers to travel to Darfur and other parts of the strife-torn nation.

The Humanitarian Air Service (WFP-HAS), run by WFP on behalf of the entire humanitarian community in Sudan, needs $20 million by 15 June to avoid cuts and maintain full service through the coming months. The total shortfall is $48 million on the $77 million budget for this year.

WFP’s Representative in Sudan, Kenro Oshidari said the agency has been facing the possible closure of the air service since March because of lack of funding. “The measures announced today are aimed to keep vital services going for longer, while we wait for new funding to be confirmed,” he stated.

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

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,” he said.

Mr. Oshidari added that the cuts will also reduce the ability to respond to urgent medical evacuation requests and staff relocations because of insecurity. Last year, WFP-HAS carried out 267 security and medical evacuations.

So far this year, donors have provided $13.2 million in confirmed contributions to WFP-HAS, about 17 per cent of the required budget.

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