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Lack of Funds Could Ground Humanitarian Air Service in Sudan

FILE - Sacs of sorghum are stored following the delivery of nearly 50,000 tonnes of US food aid bound for areas of Sudan affected by conflict, on May 26, 2015. in Port Sudan. T

The U.N. World Food Program says it will be forced to shut down a life-saving air service in Sudan by the end of the month unless nearly $10 million in funding is found.

The WFP and other aid agencies rely upon the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, or UNHAS, to get aid and personnel where they are needed.

The service is especially crucial in Sudan, where vast distances, insecurity and poor roads make it virtually impossible for aid workers to reach remote areas by car.

But, the air service may be grounded in Sudan unless the WFP can close a $9.9 million funding shortfall.

Worsening situation

WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher tells VOA the service has become even more critical since Sudan's government began new military operations against rebel groups in December.

“In the last few months, the situation has become more complicated. More than … 200,000 people have been displaced and Sudan is a country with very little infrastructure," she said. "Many of the aid operations are in far-fetched places. If the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service cannot fly the aid workers to those regions, we cannot reach some 40 locations where the humanitarians are working.”

UNHAS' crucial role

In the first half of this year, UNHAS Sudan transported nearly 20,000 passengers and more than 110 metric tons of cargo. It also has carried out some 16 medical and security evacuations.

Luescher warns these critical services will stop by the end of September if UNHAS is forced to shut down for lack of funds.

She says humanitarian workers will have to resort to dangerous road travel to reach people in need, and many people will likely be deprived of food, water, health care and other essential relief.

WFP says the amount of money requested is a relative pittance when weighed against the assistance it buys for millions of people in this crisis-ridden country.