Imagine urgently needing medical attention without available commercial airlines, only tracks running in the desert. Imagine trying to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance with roadways rendered impassable from flooding.
N’Djamena – The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) in Chad constitutes an essential part of humanitarian operations, evacuating aid workers and providing access to vulnerable populations in the remotest parts of the country.
In a vast country like Chad, access to health care and medication can be a challenge for aid workers. Regions in need of humanitarian assistance are often located far away from cities and medical facilities. UNHAS transports light cargo such as medical supplies, information and communications technology equipment, and carries out medical and security evacuations.
In May 2012, Nassar, a WFP staff member was evacuated from Haraze to the capital N’Djamena, more than 900km away. Suffering from arterial hypertension, Nassar had seen a doctor in Haraze, but the medications he needed were not available in the region. Nassar’s health quickly deteriorated, requiring immediate medical evacuation. Thanks to UNHAS, Nassar was evacuated to N’Djamena on a day’s notice.
“UNHAS service is excellent and responds quickly to emergency requests,” said Nassar. Once evacuated to N’Djamena, Nassar received immediate medical care. Two weeks later, he returned to Haraze on another UNHAS flight and resumed work.
Not only is UNHAS critical for evacuating humanitarian aid workers, but it provides access to vulnerable populations in the remotest parts of the country. In Chad, sites hosting refugees from Sudan and Central African Republic, and food insecure and malnourished populations, are found in regions that are hardest to access. UNHAS is especially important during the five-month rainy season when many locations become inaccessible by road due to flooding.
In 2012, UNHAS transported more than 65,000 passengers and 180 metric tons of cargo in Chad alone. UNHAS in Chad is managed by the United Nations World Food Programme. There are four UNHAS aircrafts in Chad and 17 destinations within the country. Thousands of vulnerable populations in Chad rely on humanitarian assistance for survival.
UNHAS’ motto – “WFP Aviation, our wings save lives” – captures its critical role, whether it is for medical evacuation of humanitarian aid workers, or to provide WFP food assistance to vulnerable populations and refugees in need of assistance throughout the country.