Aid workers to fly supplies to Darfur


Khartoum : Humanitarian workers in Darfur have been asked to fly to remote locations to distribute aid to avoid rising incidents of gunmen holding up vehicles and commandeering them to their hideouts.

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The United Nations World Food Programme's Humanitarian Air Service (WFP-HAS) has sanctioned a hefty $18 million package of new contributions from several donors that will allow the aid workers to operate until October, news agency WAM said.

"Without the service offered by WFP-HAS, many of the 12,000 humanitarian workers in Darfur would not be able to get out to the field and that's especially true because carjackings have recently been on the rise. It is becoming ever more dangerous for our staff to use the roads," said Kenro Oshidari, WFP's representative in Sudan.

The number of carjackings this year is already 60 percent of the total during 2006, when 118 vehicles were attacked.

A $5.5 million donation from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) led the package of new financing.

The air service has been flying in Sudan since 2004. Currently operating a fleet of six helicopters and nine fixed wing aircraft, it carries passengers and cargo throughout strife-torn Darfur and is also used for medical evacuations.

The volatile security situation and lack of infrastructure, plus the coming rainy season, which is beginning now and will run until October, means that helicopter travel is often the only way that humanitarian workers from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations can reach people affected by the Darfur conflict.

To date, the UN says some 70 cars, belonging to either international aid organizations or African Union peacekeeping troops, have been stopped on the roads by gunmen and taken away.