Fast donor response keeps WFP Humanitarian Air Service flying in Sudan

Published on 30 June 2008

Thanks to a fast response by donors, the humanitarian air service which flies aid workers to critical areas in Sudan will continue running until the end of September.

Thanks to a fast response by donors, the humanitarian air service which flies aid workers to critical areas in Sudan will continue running until the end of September.

These donations have arrived just in time. Our passengers – relief workers from more than 200 aid organizations operating in Sudan – would be unable to do their vital work without WFP-HAS

Kenro Oshidari, WFP Representative in Sudan

"These donations have arrived just in time. Our passengers – relief workers from more than 200 aid organizations operating in Sudan – would be unable to do their vital work without WFP-HAS," said Kenro Oshidari, WFP Representative in Sudan.

Contributions

After the World Food Programme (WFP) announced service cuts on June 10, and warned that the Humanitarian Air Service (HAS) it runs in Sudan risked being grounded due to a severe lack of funds, five donors stepped forward with contributions totalling US$14.8 million.

Grants include: $4 million from the United States, $4 million from the UN Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) for Sudan, $3.8 million from the European Commission, $2.5 million from Canada and $500,000 from the US-based Annenberg Foundation. Additional pledges are also expected in the next two months.

Impassable roads

"The air service is especially important at this time of year, when the rains make most roads impassable. Added to that, banditry and insecurity have made it too dangerous for humanitarians to travel by road in many parts of Darfur – for example, each month an average of 3,000 aid workers are flown to the deep field in Darfur on WFP-HAS helicopters," Oshidari said.

While Oshidari thanked donors, he stressed that the service cuts must remain in place and warned that WFP-HAS has no funds confirmed beyond September – meaning it still risks closure in the fourth quarter of 2008.

BACKGROUND:

- On June 10, WFP-HAS announced several reductions due to funding shortfalls. It cut one helicopter from its Darfur fleet, bringing the number of helicopters to five. It also cut one Dash-8 aircraft, reducing flights from Khartoum to Darfur from six to five days per week. Flights to Juba were reduced from four to three days a week; flights to Rumbek and Malakal were reduced from three to two days per week.

- WFP-HAS stated that $20 million was needed to avoid some of the cuts and maintain full service through September. The donations announced today are not enough to return the fleet to full capacity, however, they will ensure that the air operation can keep flying through to the end of September, beyond which no new funds have yet been identified.

- The service cut reduced the monthly operating costs of WFP-HAS by $1 million, to $5.2 million per month.

- The fleet currently includes 5 helicopters in Darfur and a further 16 fixed-wing aircraft.

- WFP-HAS carries about 15,000 humanitarian passengers per month on routes throughout Darfur and southern Sudan. It links both regions with the capital Khartoum.

- WFP-HAS receives an average of $1.5 million per month in user fees charged to passengers. It costs a flat fee of $100 for a ticket to travel on any WFP-HAS flight.

- Plans to cut a further aircraft, a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900, have been put on hold.

The WFP-HAS budget for 2008 is $77 million, against which $28.4 million has been received, with donations from: the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office, the largest donor at $8.4 million (including the most recent contribution); the United States, $7.2 million (including the most recent contribution); the UN's common funds and agencies $7 million (including the CHF contribution, above); Canada US$2.5 million (including the above contribution); Private donors $1.4 million; France $750,000; Ireland, $739,000; and Spain, $466,000.