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Cash crunch hits UN air operations in Sudan
October 02, 2017
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KHARTOUM: UN humanitarian air operations in Sudan face being grounded because of an acute cash crunch, aid officials say, affecting the delivery of relief to thousands of people in conflict areas.

The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has funding that will barely keep it flying until the end of November, raising the possibility that operations may have to cease from December.

UNHAS has two fixed wing aircraft and three helicopters, but has already stopped flying to five out of 41 locations in the African country.

“We are currently funded until end of November and we require one million dollars more to continue operations until the end of the year,” Bianka Zyra, Sudan spokeswoman for the World Food Programme which manages UNHAS, told AFP. “If we don’t receive that one million dollars then operations will cease.”

Aid workers say UNHAS is a vital service for delivering humanitarian supplies, especially medicines, in Sudan’s conflict-wracked regions such as Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The UN helicopters can access deep field locations that are extremely difficult to access by road.

“Although primarily a passenger service for aid workers, UNHAS delivers perishable vaccines which by road either take too long or due to bumpiness would shatter,” Zyra said.

UNHAS also ferries international delegations, foreign diplomats and Sudanese officials to war-wracked areas to assess relief work.

The current financial situation is critical for UNHAS as it now has to raise funds almost on a weekly basis.

“We are getting $500,000 from here or $250,000 from there,” Zyra said when the service needs about $1.4 million a month.

“What UNHAS really needs is full funding, not only to the end of the year but extra money in terms of being able to plan strategically to be able to meet rising needs.”

Those needs are increasing in part because the Sudanese authorities are offering relief workers more access to several previously no-go areas after Washington made it a condition that Khartoum must meet for a permanent lifting of decades-old US sanctions against Sudan.

On Oct.12, US President Donald Trump is to decide whether to permanently lift the sanctions imposed in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged support for militant groups.

Agence France-Presse

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