18 March 2009
The United Nations will shut down its humanitarian air services in much of West Africa because of a shortage of funds, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. Emilia Casella of the World Food Programme (WFP) said the chartered aircraft used to ferry aid workers and supplies to remote parts of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast would stop on Friday, March 20. "In areas that are not reachable by land ... aid workers will not be able to reach vulnerable people with medical care, food, water and sanitation, and other crucial services," she told a news briefing in Geneva. "The U.N. will also not be in a position to carry out timely medical and security evacuations of humanitarian personnel, if and when needed," the spokeswoman said. There are 250 humanitarian agencies now working in the affected West African countries, Casella said. The exact number of people receiving help from the U.N. air service was not known, but thousands of people would be affected, she said.