Bangui — The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), run by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the Central African Republic (CAR), is facing a critical shortfall in funding and will have to cut back services by half if no resources are received in the next few weeks.
WFP's Aviation Chief Pierre Carrasse said the service needed US$ 1.8 million to continue until the end of the year. "With all the emergencies around the world, the Central African Republic goes largely unnoticed - you could even say it is a forgotten emergency," he said. "But the humanitarian needs are huge and support for the air service is crucial."
More than 40 humanitarian organizations depend on UNHAS to transport aid workers to the deep field. It presently operates two aircraft, but Carrasse said this would likely be cut to one if no further funding for 2012 was received, and that ultimately the service could face closure.
UNHAS provides a vital service in CAR, bringing doctors to remote areas to treat sick children, nutritionists to help pregnant women remain strong, and water engineers to help communities improve their land. It also provided support to the operation to airdrop food over the summer when thousands of people were cut off in the remote Vakaga region.
Insecurity, including the Lord's Resistance Army activities in the South-East, has brought a significant rise in air transport demand from the humanitarian community, with the number of passengers increasing from 300 to 600 per month. The needs of 1.9 million people who are served by the humanitarian community in CAR risk not being met if additional funds are not received.
Given poor roads, many of which become impassable during rainy season, armed conflicts and banditry, air transport is indispensable to deliver humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced people and other vulnerable groups.
Since the beginning of 2012, UNHAS in CAR has transported an average of 600 humanitarian staff monthly to 23 destinations across the country in 1,910 hours of flight.
In 2012, donors have included USAID, the UN's emergency response fund (CERF), the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), Belgium and Ireland.
For more information please contact (email address: email@example.com):
Houssainou Taal, WFP/Bangui, Tel. + 236 70 17 82 78
Emilia Casella, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 3854, Mob. +39 347 9450634