Humanitarian response in jeopardy as funding for helicopter operations dries up in Madagascar
“UNHAS is more than an air service; it is a lifeline,” says Pasqualina Di Sirio, WFP’s Country Director in Madagascar. “We need funding urgently to keep this critical service running. Otherwise, isolated communities in the southeast are out of reach.”
Most of the areas affected by Cyclone Freddy continue to be inaccessible by road months after landfall - with the entire humanitarian community reliant on-air transport to access the region safely.
“Thanks to these flights, we have been able to provide ten health centers in the most isolated areas affected by Cyclone Freddy - which cover more than 70,000 inhabitants - with essential medical items,” says Joaquin Noterdaeme, Médecins du Monde’s Field Coordinator in Mananjary, southern Madagascar. “It would take days to get to those destinations by road, and some of them are not accessible by road. So, we need these flights at least until the end of the rainy season.”
In early March, the WFP-led United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) started operating helicopter flights using a European Union-funded-Mi8. 41 flights have been conducted, transporting 522 passengers and 137 MT of cargo to 51 locations during March and April. The air service is the only viable means of transporting humanitarian workers and lifesaving cargo to hard-to-reach areas affected by the cyclone.
Established in 2004, the WFP-managed UNHAS provides global services to the humanitarian community where viable air transport is unavailable. The service currently transports up to 390,000 passengers to over 400 destinations annually through a fleet of fixed-winged aircraft and helicopters globally.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability, and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.