Skip to main content

WFP Demands Immediate And Unconditional Release Of Helicopter Crew Held In Sudan

JUBA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) demands the immediate unconditional release of six crew members of a WFP-contracted helicopter that landed unexpectedly in a remote area in Sudan’s South Kordofan province. WFP said that it feared they may have been abducted.

“WFP demands the swift release of all crew members, who are supporting our humanitarian work,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “We urge all involved to take immediate action and we hold the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) solely responsible for the safe return of the crew and the aircraft.”

The WFP-managed UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) lost contact with the helicopter on Monday during a flight from Rumbek in South Sudan to Khartoum in Sudan where it was due to undergo regular maintenance. The aircraft was not transporting passengers or cargo.

SPLM-N said later on Monday that it was holding the crew members until their relationship with WFP was confirmed, and that the six crew members were unhurt. WFP has provided the requested assurances and seeks direct contact with the crew, and the coordinates to retrieve them and the helicopter.

“We are concerned that SPLM-N has not freed the six Bulgarian crew as promised because the group may want to make a release contingent on demands completely unconnected to WFP,” said Ms. Cousin. “We hope this is not the case. The immediate release of the crew will prove our fears are unfounded.”

UNHAS provides a critical service for the entire humanitarian community in South Sudan. Safe and reliable air transport is vital to humanitarian operations in the country, which are carried out under the principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality, completely regardless of politics.

#                              #                                 #

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 75 countries.

Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media

For more information please contact (email address:
George Fominyen, WFP/Juba, Mob. +211 922 465 247
Amanda Lawrence-Brown, WFP/Nairobi, Tel +254 707 722105
Jane Howard, WFP/Rome, Mobile: +393467600521
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.  +44 20 72409001, Mob.  +44 7968 008474
Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 473 4570
Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob.  +1-646-8241112