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Kenya, Somalia Air Route Resumes Tuesday - 2003-07-07

Air travel between Somalia and Kenya is to resume Tuesday, after the Kenyan government lifted its flight ban.

Air charter companies and relief workers are among those pleased by the Kenyan government's decision to end the flight ban, which was put into place more than two weeks ago, following what the government called an unspecified terrorist threat.

In announcing the resumption of flights, National Security Minister Chris Murungaru said the government was satisfied with security improvements made recently at airports. He also noted that the ban had affected trade between the two countries and had hurt relief operations in Somalia.

A daily newspaper in Kenya estimates that one of Nairobi's airports lost $205,000 a day because of the ban.

Captain Himat Vaghela is managing director of Capital Airlines, a Nairobi air charter company that earns about $75,000 a day. He says his company lost around $98,000 during the flight ban, and that he is looking forward to resuming his business.

"We already got our clients now inquiring. We are flying again tomorrow. I hope it will gain momentum and go back to what it was before," Captain Vaghela said.

Aid agencies have also felt the pinch. UNICEF Somalia's emergency officer, Bob McCarthy, explains that the flight ban hurt the agency's operations. "We faced serious disruptions to planned activities. In some locations, we have had to suspend child immunization activities that affected something on the order of 10,000 kids who were supposed to be immunized against the main killer diseases," he said.

Mr. McCarthy said UNICEF is relieved with the resumption of the flights and will continue with its activities in the warring country.